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TALES .^^ 




Class __P_?:^a^ 

Book ._ L_^^J J s>. 

Copyright N^ 






NEW YORK::::::::::::::::::::i904 

Two Capiafc Received 

MAR 25 1904 

CuASir IX. ' Ac. No 

Copyright, 1904, by 

Published, March, 1904 






I. Kankakee Land = . i 

II. Hickory-Nuts and Potash 14 

III. Eagle Point 22 

IV. The Flaming Sea 35 

V. Wild Honey 71 

VI. Pe-ash-a-way the Miami 83 

VII. The Pitiful Quest 98 

VIII. Legends of Lost Lake 112 

IX. Along the Sau-wau -see-be 141 

X. The First Citizen of the Parkovash . .194 

XI. The Rescue 211 

XII. The Story of the First Wagon. . . .223 


From Drawings by Will Vawter 
The Indian drew his hunting-knife .... Frontispiece 


He was alive, but expired in their arms . . . . 12 ' 

**At that moment a dead bird fell through the 

branches" 50 

Sitting in the bright moonlight on one of the high 

bluffs of the river 106 

Stood with uphfted spears 158 

Pokagon's famous wagon 224 

Map — Kankakee Land and the region of the Great 

Lakes i 



More than a million acres of swaying reeds, 
fluttering flags, clumps of wild rice, thick-crowding 
lily-pads, soft beds of cool green mosses, shim- 
mering ponds and black mire and trembling bogs 
— such is Kankakee Land. These wonderful 
fens, or marshes, together with their wide-reach- 
ing lateral extensions, spread themselves over an 
area far greater than that of the Dismal Swamp 
of Virginia and North Carolina. Their vastness, 
their silence, their misty haze, and their miry 
depths make them the very realm of forgetfulness 
and oblivion. In the remote glacial times, how- 
ever, all this spacious plain was the scene of the 
mightiest activities, for it was swept by deep swirl- 
ing currents and torn and scarred by moving 
mountains of ice and rock. But within the his^ 
toric period the river has been a mere thread of 
silver meandering through the sloughs, the lily- 

2 Tales of Kankakee Land 

beds, and the rice; now trending over to the ancient 
bank on the right, and now wandering far off to 
the left; here creeping around and between the 
members of a group of islands, and then quite 
losing itself in ten thousand acres of rushes and 

It was a fair vision, indeed, that unfolded 
itself before the French explorer whose eye first 
of all surveyed this strange and marvellous land. 
What were his emotions when he stood among the 
tender grasses of the old pasture-slopes along the 
margin of these marshes and saw the tumultuous 
herds of buffalo — the ^'huge wild oxen," as he 
called them ? Was he not breathless with amaze- 
ment when he beheld the long lines of antlered 
elk venturing forth in the moonlight and stalking 
through the woodland paths ? What did he think 
of the herd of deer that, mute and motionless, gazed 
down from the hill-top, or the does with their 
fawns working their way through the thickets that 
bordered the numerous tributaries of the Kan- 
kakee ? Where would he go to find such a scene 
as that of the countless millions of water-fowl — 
ducks and brant and geese and swans — settling 
over the vast fields of wild rice? What did he 
say to himself when he saw the beaver towns that 

Kankakee Land 3 

lined all the watercourses ? Here it was no longer 
possible to refrain from some expression of won- 
der and joy, so that he wrote back to his friends in 
France that this region above all others was the 
^^home of the beaver." 

One thinks of these early explorers, and knows 
something of their astonishment and wonder, 
whenever a big buck comes down from the Michi- 
gan woods and seeks to thread the ancient run- 
way, and when a panther now and then follows 
in the same course. Instinctively the mind's eye 
sweeps over the thrilling scenes of the old life 
when the hunters declare that the wolf's hungry 
brood is still at home in these wilds, that the fox 
has by no means relinquished his ancestral do- 
main, that the mink is still looking after his 
precious skin, and that all the vicissitudes of the 
present added to those of the past have not been 
enough to drive the otter from the fine fish pre- 
serves of the Kankakee. The coot and the grebe 
are still numerous among the limitless acres of 
lily-pads; the bittern stands on every solitary 
shore; and now, as of old, the ancient heronry in 
some detached grove of water-elms is still crowded 
with young birds in the nesting season. What 
did the early French think of the blue heron ? or 

4 Tales of Kankakee Land 

its cousins and companions, the snowy egrets? 
What ejaculations of dehght must have gone up 
from the canoes on the river at sight of a flock of 
the great white birds. 

For all men of our race and for the Indian, as 
well, the islands have possessed a peculiar charm. 
No one can overlook them. They are hummocks 
of sand rising boldly out of this sedgy plain, and 
were cast up by the wintry flood ages ago at the 
close of the glacial epoch. Their soil is therefore 
very different from that of the region in which 
they are found. Yet, they are by no means 
sterile tracts, for, mingled with these sands, are 
lime and other mineral foods for plants; and the 
vegetation enjoys also a great advantage in the 
unfailing water supplies drawn in from the sur- 
rounding marsh. Hence, in general, the islands are 
heavily wooded with oak and elm. The vine, too, 
with its powerful root finds these conditions very 
favorable. There is a large, luscious grape that 
thrives on the islands and is said to be peculiar to 
them. Other grapes, the blue, the red, and the 
white, have been abundant on the contiguous 
mainland, as well as here; but this large one, 
peculiar to the latter places, has attracted the at- 
tention of many, and is supposed by some people 

Kankakee Land 5 

to be a survival from a cultivated variety brought 
from France by the earliest white people who en- 
tered the region. 

Some of the islands seem to have been a favor- 
ite place of residence. Plum-trees and those of 
the wild crab-apple probably indicate the wilder- 
ness homestead. This homestead, however, may 
often have been that of primitive man. One 
may observe that thickets of crab-apple, plum, 
and the red haw, as they occur on the mainland 
along the river, almost always, if not invariably, 
indicate the near presence of mounds or ancient 
village sites; and one can with difficulty resist the 
feeling that they are survivals of the old-time gar- 
dens of the mound-builders. The clumps of 
rose-bushes in the same vicinity are also pleas- 
antly suggestive. 

These little islands will not be forgotten in his- 
tory. They were admirably located as places of 
safe retreat during times of peril. For the level 
area stretching away on all sides gave a wide out- 
look, affording opportunity for timely warning 
to those sojourning here. And then, too, very 
many of them are difficult of approach, since the 
quaking bogs around offer no footing for man or 
beast, nor yet sufficient water for the passage of 

6 Tales of Kankakee Land 

any canoe. To know the hidden windings of some 
secure channel among the reeds and to keep the 
secret to himself, was all that was necessary for 
the refugee who would make his home quite se- 
cure in such a place. The islands, therefore, at 
one period became an asylum for a sorely per- 
secuted race. What the Everglades of Florida 
were to the poor Seminoles, these secluded spots 
became to the remnant of the Mohicans, from 
whom our fathers so cruelly wrested the regions 
of Narragansett Bay. Those who have inferred 
that the Mohicans perished in New York and 
New England, may correct that impression in the 
knowledge of the fact that the survivors of this 
notable race fled far to the west, and to bury them- 
selves from the sight of Englishmen, made their 
abode in these island fastnesses of the Kankakee. 
It is a comfort to know that in the great Kankakee 
Land of Indiana, far from the sounding tides of 
their native shore, these unhappy men — who were 
in truth the ''last of the Mohicans" — found respite 
from their heavy sorrows. But it was the final 
act in the drama, for here the camp-fires of their 
tribe went out forever. 

Among the more vivid recollections of my early 
childhood is that of a certain dread, or awe, 

Kankakee Land 7 

aroused at that time by the mere mention of the 
land of the Kankakee. It was a place of mystery 
and peril. Our town, or village, was located just 
beyond the very tip and source of the eastern arm 
of the Kankakee — where the ancient paths of the 
Pottowattomies came up out of the great marsh- 
land and passed over into the valley of the St. 
Joseph. Especially in the late fall, when the 
marshes were burning, was the sense of alarm ex- 
tremely acute, for the smoky atmosphere and the 
smell of fire quickened within me lively notions of 
danger. Nor was I alone in my fears. At such 
times, if it happened that a dry fall had followed 
a season of very luxuriant vegetable growth, my 
elders, too, were much disturbed, lest a rising 
wind should drive those flames far beyond the 
lowlands — as had always occurred at an earlier 
period. All night long the heavens in the south- 
west glared in the red light of the glowing plain, 
where miles and miles and miles of flaming billows 

Sometimes on a bright summer morning I went 
with an older brother and the neighbor boys to 
drive the cows to the rich pastures that skirted the 
marshes. As we approached the lowland, the 
path led through a delightful open grove of tower- 

8 Tales of Kankakee Land 

ing oaks. My companions were accustomed to 
leave me here to play, while they went on to see 
that the cattle were safely stationed beyond a set 
of bars that stood somewhere far away on the 
border of a wet meadow. In this meadow were 
clumps of alders, and on certain higher points of 
land scrub oaks sheltered patches of wintergreens. 
Quite generally the boys stopped long enough to 
gather a hatful of leaves, and sometimes they 
brought back to me a few of the red berries. I 
longed to see those beds of evergreen, but I was 
afraid to go farther than the big oak-grove. 

The path beyond — or paths, for there were many 
of them — led under very high overarching bushes, 
forming curious arbors that curved in every di- 
rection, with black earth beneath and with dense 
sloping walls and interlacing boughs above — ave- 
nues that were cool and inviting enough, except 
for the heavy damp air and the darkness into 
which the footsteps of the boys wound away and 
disappeared. Once, when I heard voices and 
knew that my companions were returning, I vent- 
ured a little way into this huge thicket and just 
missed stepping on a curious creature, the size of 
a man's hand. It was of vivid yellow, with great 
black eye-spots on its outstretched wings. Lying 

Kankakee Land 9 

against the black earth and in the strange, uncer- 
tain light of the place, its wings seemed heavy and 
fleshy, but some of the boys said that it was only 
a great butterfly, or a ''big marsh miller." It 
must have been one of the giant moths, two or 
three species of which are common enough in this 
region. But such at the time was the state of my 
mind, my thoughts and overwrought feelings, that 
the creature which I had just missed stepping 
on seemed more like some curious flying lizard 
that could bite or sting or in some way wound a 
little boy. Thus even the insect life of the Kan- 
kakee might be something prodigious. 

One night the boys came home late and in great 
distress of mind. They had searched the meadow 
far and near, had climbed trees and scanned the 
outlying swamps for miles away, and had beaten 
through every alder clump and called and called, 

but could find no trace or sign of neighbor C 's 

brindle cow Bess. The animal was never found. 
It seemed probable that it had wandered out into 
the quaking bog and had stepped incautiously 
on to one of those treacherous areas where Nature 
has so dexterously roofed over with living green 
a deep pit of boiling quicksand. But some weeks 
later a hunter, returning from far down the Kan- 

10 Tales of Kankakee Land 

kakee, told of finding the carcass of a cow with the 
flesh stripped off clean and the bones gnawed by 
wolves. Some thought the wolves were not now 
numerous enough, and at this season of the year 
not bold enough, to attack such an animal as a 
cow, and that the unfortunate creature on which 
they had feasted must have died a natural death. 
But others shook their heads in doubt when they 
recalled the depredations committed in other days 
by the big timber wolves that ranged through the 
outskirts of the valley, and even to this hour are 
sometimes encountered in the deep fastnesses of 
the boundless swamps. Whatever had been the 
fate of our neighbor's cow Bess, thereafter I could 
not refrain from begging my brother to stay with 
me in the oak-grove; lest, if he should go farther, 
he, too, might be engulfed in the dreadful morass 
or might be pounced upon by some fierce animal 
lurking in the dark avenues of the thicket. 

That very fall the horrors of those mysterious 
watery plains were greatly augmented for me by 
the untimely death of poor Peter Ernst. He was 
one of two workmen in my father's bakery — a 
German boy full of affection for children and 
abounding in quaint and delightful fatherland^ 
stories. At early dawn of a holiday he had taken 

Kankakee Land 11 

his dog and gun and pushed his boat far down 
the Kankakee. As we afterward discovered, the 
morning hunt had been very successful. There 
were many ducks piled in the end of the boat, to- 
gether with a wild goose and a great white swan. 
But that night Peter did not return. The next 
morning the dog came back without him. A 
searching party set forth, following the lead of 
the dog. 

Hurried along under the impatient guidance of 
the faithful creature, and marvelling at the ani- 
mal's noble intelligence, they came at length to 
one of the few spots where the marsh-land presents 
a sandy beach. There in the reeds not far from 
the shore was Peter's boat, and within could be 
discerned the outline of his recumbent form. The 
men waded out and lifted his head and shoulders. 
He was alive, but expired in their arms without 
disclosing the nature of the appalling calamity 
that had overtaken him. There were those who 
believed that he had been bitten by some venomous 
serpent. Others said that it was the heat that had 
overcome him, and such must have been the truth 
of the matter. On those days of early fall, when 
the air is hushed and still over all the marsh-land, 
the sun's rays not only smite from above with 

12 Tales of Kankakee Land 

sickening force, but are reflected from beneath as 
from burnished brass. Under these conditions the 
exhalations are sometimes heavy and stifling, and 
such as the human frame can ill abide. An arm- 
ful of water-lilies found in his boat were preserved 
and laid on his casket, and below them were spread 
out the snowy pinions of the white swan. The 
other particulars of the event have faded from 
recollection, but thereafter all my childhood 
thoughts of the Kankakee involved in some man- 
ner the memory of Peter Ernst. In daytime 
musings and before I slept at night, I saw his pros- 
trate form in the boat with the upturned face 
and the delirious eyes, and the dead swan at his 

Even yet there are hours when I cannot think of 
this land of shining pools and reedy wastes and 
boundless acres of lilies and rushes — with the 
flocks of wild fowl rising on fluttering wings or 
whistling by or dropping into favorite haunts with 
sweep and plash, and circling waves that go rus- 
tling through the rice — without the blue eyes and 
kindly face of Peter Ernst as features of the scene. 
And a kindred spell, I am sure, has held the 
thoughts and emotions of many another, whose 
aching heart has longed to know some death secret 


^^^ - :, 1^11 



He was alive, but expired in their arms. 

Kankakee Land 13 

hidden in the fen-land or locked in the peaceful 
bosom of the shining river, pathetic mysteries, 
which only the heavens that bend above these 
silent realms may ever unfold. 



My father was one of the earliest of those Anglo- 
Saxons who came into this region with the pur- 
pose of living the white man's life. He conducted 
a general store in the village at the head of the 
east fork of the Kankakee. A general store in 
those days carried in stock merchandise of a nature 
so varied as to meet nearly every personal want of 
any and every possible customer. Therefore, it 
would have been difficult to find an adult indi- 
vidual in all the country for miles around whose 
face was not more or less familiar at his counters. 
But of all the motley throng that entered there, 
none were more characteristic of the region, and 
perhaps none more interesting, than those that 
came up the Pottowattomie trail — an ancient path 
skirting the north shore line of the Kankakee 
marshes throughout the entire length of the river. 

Very many of them were Indians, and not a few 
were half-breeds. The others were French, Scotch, 


Hichorij-Nuts and Potash 15 

English, and Irish, in large degree the lineal de- 
scendants of trappers and fur-traders, who for 
more than a hundred years had represented the 
white man in this paradise of the hunter. Among 
them was one, Doctor Sandy Illicott, of Scotch 
descent, though it was hinted that he had more 
than a little touch of Indian blood in his veins. 
Our family and the people of the region knew 
him as Doctor Sandy. His father, like the grand- 
father before him, had been a trader among the 
Indians and was sufficiently prosperous to edu- 
cate his children, a numerous brood. All of them, 
enamored of civilized life — all, excepting Doctor 
Sandy — had renounced the wilderness forever. 
The latter, finding that the volume of his father's 
business was rapidly declining, had embarked in 
a more congenial and more profitable line of labor. 
He had come out of the schools an expert botanist 
and well versed in medicine. To these acquire- 
ments he subsequently added an extensive knowl- 
edge of the medicinal properties of native plants 
— a store of wisdom which he had derived wholly, 
or in part, from his Pottowattomie neighbors. He 
was thus well equipped for searching out and pre- 
paring for market numerous roots and barks and 
leaves and berries abounding in the marshes, and 

16 Tales of Kankakee Land 

on the neighboring uplands, and at that time much 
sought after by the drug trade of our land and 
others. In fact, it was the matter of these medic- 
inal plants that brought Doctor Sandy so often to 
my father's place of business. 

It came about in this way. The travelling sales- 
man of our time had not then been heard of, and 
so, the merchant annually found it necessary to 
make the long journey to some of the centres of 
trade in the East to select and purchase those 
wares essential to his wilderness traffic. During 
the fall, therefore, and sometimes in the spring, 
my father was accustomed to set out for New 
York and Boston. The route by which he trav- 
elled was the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal. 
The goods purchased in the East, following the 
same line of water communication, found a com- 
paratively safe, though very tedious, transit to 
the southern extremity of Lake Michigan and the 
mouth of the St. Joseph River. If their arrival 
was delayed — as sometimes happened — until river- 
navigation was closed for the winter, there was no 
alternative except to carry the goods by wagon 
fifty miles or more through the woods and across a 
series of little prairies, and so, finally, to our village. 

But this seldom occurred, for the ice was not 

Hickory-Nuts and Potash 17 

often a hindrance on the St. Joseph in early winter, 
and there were numerous lines of barges and spa- 
cious canoes by which merchandise was poled up 
the river. There were also many miniature sloops, 
and later small steam-boats plied regularly, touch- 
ing at piers that were strung along the current's 
course for three hundred miles or more. The in- 
coming of any of these vessels with a stock of goods 
for a local merchant was an event in the village, 
and was duly celebrated at the landing by an un- 
usual bustle and excitement, in which wellnigh 
every inhabitant participated. 

But this bringing in of the annual supplies for 
trade and traffic was, in truth, less interesting 
than those affairs that invested the merchant's set- 
ting forth for his eastward journey; nor was it so 
significant of the peculiar conditions of the place 
and time. Although the days and weeks consumed 
in such a journey were an important matter, yet 
the item of cash expense, during this period when 
trade was mainly by barter and only a little money 
came into one's hand, long remained a factor for 
very grave consideration. How to twist and turn 
things so that the immediate profits of the trip 
might pay for his passage, was the first and the last 
thought of the thrifty tradesman who would so- 

18 Tales of Kankakee Land 

journ for a brief season in those distant marts of 
Mammon. Consequently, he was on the lookout 
for weeks and months beforehand, collecting and 
stowing away for the eastern market any choice 
commodities which the environment of a wilder- 
ness village might supply cheaply and abundantly, 
always discriminating in favor of such articles as 
might find ready sale, and were not shut out by the 
limited facilities of transportation on our river. 
Thus, if nothing else offered, the cargo which my 
father took with him would consist of maple-sugar, 
cranberries, and dried huckleberries — such goods 
being derived chiefly from the Indian trade that 
came up from the Kankakee. The sugar was 
packed in pococks, a peculiar cylindrical vessel 
made of elm-bark. Great quantities of wild 
honey were quite generally a conspicuous part of 
these treasures gathered for the eastern market. 
One year, being unable to collect any adequate 
quantity of salable supplies, he employed the 
Indians to gather a barge-load of hickory-nuts. 
The latter seemed of superior quality that season 
and were very abundant. The venture proved a 
success, the nuts finding an easy market in New 
York. Often there was a large shipment of 
potash, which the soap-makers of New York were 

Hickory-Nuts and Potash 19 

at all times glad to secure. A little colony of in- 
dustrious Germans had settled in the village, and 
finding nothing else to do, began to make potash 
under my father's direction, the abundant hard- 
wood of the region supplying ashes that tempted 
this peculiar line of manufacture. Furs and hides 
were but a small part of these goods, although con- 
siderable consignments of such peltries as the trap- 
pers were still bringing in, were often accepted; 
and when disposed of at good prices, liberal com- 
missions were to be derived therefrom. 

The day having finally arrived for embarking 
on this important journey, the goods were con- 
veyed to the landing and stowed away in the big 
barges belonging to what was then known as the 
Red Dog Line of Keelboats. Our entire house- 
hold and all the family's intimate friends were at 
hand on such an occasion; and, in fact, few in the 
village would miss the sight of these barges push- 
ing out from the pier, swinging into the current, 
and gliding swiftly around the bend and away. 
In the harbor at the mouth of the river the goods 
were lifted into a sloop, whose plan it would be to 
work out into the lake well beyond the fishing- 
banks and then, if a good breeze was blowing, 
scud before it or tack from side to side. Touch- 

20 Tales of Kankakee Land 

ing at this harbor and that in the ship's course, 
there were prolonged delays before the maple- 
sugar, the hickory-nuts, the potash, and what not 
were all laid down safely on the docks of Niagara 
River and the Erie Canal. 

It will be remembered that some of the goods 
were such as others had consigned to my father's 
care and keeping, with instructions concerning 
their sale or disposition. And it is this particular 
fact that explains the intimate and lifelong friend- 
ship between him and Doctor Sandy Illicott. My 
father marketed the entire product of Doctor 
Sandy's toil — the medicinal plants which had 
been gathered through the forests and on the hill- 
sides and around the pools of the Kankakee. 
These transactions were important items in our 
business when I arrived at such an age as to be of 
some service at the store. Shortly before the time 
set for my father's journey, it was my duty and 
delight to spend a few days at Doctor Sandy's 
house, helping him in the assortment and packing 
of the roots and herbs, and seeing that each bale 
and box was in fit condition for safe shipment. I 
remember that there were many bales of snake- 
root, and that we weighed it very carefully, know- 
ing that it would bring at least a dollar per pound, 

Hickory 'Nuts and Potash 21 

and perhaps much more. There were great quan- 
tities, too, of ginseng, whose value, however, it 
was not so easy to estimate. The size of the 
larger roots would determine their selling price. 
I do not recall the names of many other plants 
which had their places in these garnered treasures. 
Most of them were designated by botanical terms 
or Indian words, both of which were then Greek 
to me. My reward for these labors, which were 
severe enough for some very real compensation, 
was a day's hunt on the Kankakee with Doctor 



In our hunting expeditions, we repaired always 
to the same place, reaching it invariably by the 
same route. The plan was to saddle our horses 
before daybreak and ride straight for the Pottowat- 
tomie trail, and then follow that path many miles 
down the river to an Indian village, where we 
could leave the horses and pursue our journey 
farther by canoe. The objective point was one 
of the delightful islands, or groves, peculiar to the 
strange sodden plains of Kankakee Land. Strictly 
speaking, they are not islands, but only great sand 
masses elevated some fifteen or twenty feet above 
the surrounding bogs. The one which was the 
favorite resort with us at that time, any person 
might easily distinguish from the rest, even now. 
It is three or four acres in extent, and unlike many 
of the islands, stands near the present bank of the 
river; that is to say, the stream touches the point 
of the island. This fact should help one to find it; 


Eagle Point 23 

for at the very point is a huge bowlder, and the 
latter is also on the river-bank, where the current 
makes a sharp turn to the right. The great mass 
of rock is worthy of more than a moment's thought. 

In its presence one comes face to face with fifty 
thousand years; for such a period of time has 
elapsed, we are told, since the rock broke away 
from the clutch of some mountainous iceberg 
that scoured the valley during the glacial epoch. 
Once established here, neither the power of the 
mighty floods that in the ancient days swirled 
through all this plain, nor the raging elements of 
innumerable storms; neither heat nor cold, nor 
any other agencies, though oft invoked, have 
availed to urge from its firm base this enduring 
monument, which still proclaims that these lands 
were once the Frost King's realm. The rock's 
position in the ancient glacial river doubtless de- 
termined the island's location and its heart-shaped 

The Kankakee of that remote age was like 
the Yukon not only in the volume of its cold and 
raging floods but also in its tendency to create 
these '^ heart" islands. Where the seething cur- 
rents were parted by an immovable obstacle, they 
whirled into the quieter waters behind it and 

24 Tales of Kankakee Land 

dropped their heavier burdens. And thus the 
mass grew behind the obstructing object and along 
Hnes radiating from it, assuming from the first a 
three-sided contour. The longer it grew, fewer 
and fewer were the contributions received by 
those parts near the centre of the triangle's base, 
so that the finished work was heart-shaped. Many 
of the islands of the Kankakee that were originally 
heart-shaped have received a tapering touch at 
the hands of gentler currents in later times, as may 
be seen from the low-lying points in which they ter- 
minate. And all of them are fringed with bush- 
covered flats cast up from the lake that inherited 
the ancient river's bed, when the foaming currents 
had utterly died away. 

This island, whose quiet haunts we loved to in- 
vade, was covered in most parts with an oak-grove, 
with here and there a giant shell-bark hickory. 
The soft turf spread beneath this grove was 
screened from view on all sides by the tops of 
dense thickets of dogwood, and marsh maples and 
soft willows that rose from the low ground sur- 
rounding the island, their upper branches glancing 
over into the higher plain which they could not 
invade. Here and there, over the interior, was a 
clump of sassafras or a billowy area of wild roses. 

Eagle Point 25 

There was a place where a few white birches lifted 
their graceful, though ghostly, forms — a rear-guard 
of the forest flora that flourished here at the close 
of the ice age, but long since retreated to the far 
north, seeking the congenial conditions of colder 
soil and keener winds. Where a boggy indentation 
at the base of the island completed the latter's 
heart-shaped outline, there stood a dark, compact 
mass of tamaracks. The delicate foliage of their 
tender green rose in exquisite contrast against the 
dull gray wall of massive oak-trunks that leaned 
from the top of the bank and far on high spread 
out their leafy branches, as if with solemn invoca- 
tion of peace. The surface of the island was in 
general a smooth, level floor. The great trees 
stood far apart, lifting their lowermost boughs 
thirty and forty feet in the air, conditions that pre- 
vail only in those forest tracts through which an- 
nual fires find their way. For these reasons the 
place was everywhere full of light, and everywhere 
one could look under the foliage and across to the 
opposite side of the island and see through to the 
narrow strip of blue sky beyond. And how sweet 
were the soft, cool airs that drifted through these 
vistas that were never dim, these shades that knew 
no gloom! 

26 Tales of Kankakee Land 

Near the point, or upper part of this island, was 
a circular, or slightly oval, depression, the bottom 
of which could not have been much above the level 
of the marsh-land. A powerful spring at the cen- 
tre fed a pool whose shallow margins, as they re- 
ceded from the brink, shelved down to dark and 
unknown depths. The waters were discharged 
by a rill that gurgled through a cleft in the em- 
bankment and made its way swiftly to a patch of 
flags in the outlying marsh. Long ages ago, be- 
fore the waters of the spring had found their way 
to the surface of the ground, some vigorous vine 
had laid claim to this spot, and had driven its great 
tap-root down deep through soil and sand and 
gravel, on down and down to the clay-beds that 
underlie the marshes, that so it might daily quench 
its thirst on the living waters that there abide. A 
century or more it drank its fill, then threw off its 
leaves, snapped its tendrils, fell prone on the earth 
and died. 

The great root, yielding to sure, though slow, 
decay, shrivelled and shrank from its tapering 
mould in the earth, and through the tiny cor- 
ridor left vacant by its natural tenant, the waters 
had stealthily crept and then burst forth with joy 
into the light of day. With such vigor the Ijttle 

Eagle Point 27 

tide came forth, and from day to day its pent-up 
energies waxed so great and strong, that it tore 
away the sand and soil and fashioned for itself in 
the forest there a great bowl ; and this, for an age, 
its sparkling flood filled to the beaded brim. But 
now, itself grown old and its life-currents running 
with a feebler pulse, the waters have fallen back 
to the narrow compass of a shimmering pool, girt 
about by rushes that lean from its circhng brink, 
but with its heart still glad in the smiles of the blue 
sky. Here bird and beast and man may refresh 
the spirit and linger for pleasant meditation. 

And surely, none who stand here in a thoughtful 
mood could overlook the ancient grass-grown 
hearths of the red man that a few paces back from 
the water's edge are drawn in a rude circle about 
the pool, themselves bowl-shaped depressions a 
few inches in depth and three to six feet in diame- 
ter, and paved with stones the size of your two 
fists. You must dig for the pavement with your 
cane, for the stones are now deeply embedded in 
thick turf and leaf-mould. Each fireplace stood 
at the centre of a lodge. Doctor Sandy was wont 
to declare that these hearths had been in use before 
the arrival of the white man. When the Indian 
had come into the possession of flint and steel and 

28 Tales of Kankakee Land 

a swinging kettle, the light of his fireside might be 
kindled in any convenient place. But in the old 
days '^the seed of fire" was a sacred thing and 
must be guarded with greatest care. Slumbering 
on the hot stones of the spacious fire-bowl, the 
carefully covered embers would hold fast through 
one moon, and more, the life of the smothered 

But, alas, no more may those dancing fires 
rise and fall on the ancient hearth to light up the 
dark features that once knew the joys of this 
place. No more may they show forth the sloping 
walls of deer- skin with the lodge poles and their 
swinging burdens of cradle and otter-bag, of quiver 
and bow and war- club. Never again may the soft 
and pleasant voices, now long since hushed and 
forever gone, rehearse for mortal ear the glory of 
the war-path or the tales of the chase or the tradi- 
tions of their people and the legends of their gods. 
But the oak-leaf flutters down on the pool, as of 
yore; the snow-flake falls and melts away; the 
moon and the white stars, in turn, still keep their 
solemn vigils with the faithful fountain of the 
isle. And if the spirits of primitive men ever 
neglect the joys of the eternal shore to speed down 
to an earthly spot to fond memory dear, those who 

Eagle Point 29 

once knew the charms of this peaceful haunt must 
sometimes stand together here to softly chant a 
spirit's song, softly whisper a spirit's tale, or sweetly 
breathe a spirit's love. 

The island was well known to many of us, nor 
were our experiences confined to any particular 
season of the year. During the school holidays of 
midwinter we sometimes skated down to the place, 
following all the windings of the river — unless dur- 
ing a time of exceptionally high water, when we 
preferred the ice on the open marsh. But it was a 
hard push and demanded an early morning start; 
for every skater must be back again and off the ice 
before night-fall. Both the river-ice and that 
on the marsh were peculiarly treacherous, since 
springs rise at frequent intervals in the river-bed 
and elsewhere, and where they are of sufficient 
volume the ice does not form, or quickly melts 
away. In other places, where some mere trifle of 
a bubbling current has kept steadily at work, the 
frozen surface is gradually thinned out from be- 
neath, threatening a cold plunge, if not a terrible 
disaster, for the incautious footstep of man or 
beast venturing thereon. But the practised eye 
is able to detect a tell-tale change in the shading 
of the surface; and as an extra provision against 

30 Tales of Kankakee Land 

danger, we were accustomed to carry a staff, or 
pole, strapped to one wrist. Therefore, in the 
winter time there were no moonHght expeditions 
on the Kankakee, and as soon as the dusk of even- 
ing had fallen, the skaters knew that to be safe one 
must be away. 

Yet we felt that we were repaid for the severe 
labor, and for the danger which we had braved. 
Nowhere else could we find such flocks of cedar- 
birds, nowhere so many cross-bills; and here, if 
nowhere else, there were sometimes a few white 
buntings mingling with the linnets and chickadees 
that infested every tangled thicket of weeds and 
briars. Here in the marsh it was not unusual to 
find a snowy owl dropped down on some dead limb 
or on the first convenient stake he could find when 
overtaken by the daylight. It is not easy to dis- 
tinguish him where the frost has powdered thick 
every bush and heaped a crystalline clump on every 
earth hummock. Nor would one be apt to dream 
of his presence, had not the sharp eyes of the blue- 
jays caught a glimpse of the strange, animated 
snow-tuft. Blind and almost helpless, the startled 
and angry owl must submit to their jeers and 
taunts and even their buffets, in which they may 
almost throw him from his perch. They are the 

Eagle Point 31 

worst dare-devils of the marshes, as you may see; 
for they will not desist until the most reckless one 
among the flock has softly winged his way to a 
point in mid-air some distance above and a little 
behind the owl, and then dropped like a stone on 
the hot head of old Bubo, giving the latter's neck 
a very uncomfortable twist. The jays will then 
make off with a most outrageous clatter of self- 
satisfaction that furnishes a very near approach to 
derisive laughter. There will be a fierce glaring 
of fiery, though sightless, eyeballs, much uneasy 
stepping about on the perch and a furious snapping 
of the hard, white mandibles — demonstrations 
that bode no good to the impudent jay that is 
caught on the perch when darkness has set in once 
more. The snowy owl is ravenously hungry now, 
for he has been frozen out of the far northland and 
has descended on the Kankakee to see what he 
can find. Ten to one he will wring the necks of 
more than one blue-jay before his ire is appeased 
and his appetite fully satisfied. 

The winter birds on the marshes show many va- 
rieties. An occasional duck whistles by or drops 
into a pond which the springs have kept open. 
During the very dead of winter these open pools 
gather to themselves many strange migrants that 

32 Tales of Kankakee Land 

are not to be found in the region during any other 
season of the year. The red duck of San Fran- 
cisco Harbor and the canvas-backs of Chesapeake 
Bay are sometimes found huddled together in the 
same pool. The wonderful pinions that have 
swept the continent in search of hospitality, have 
settled at last among the unfailing comforts of 
Kankakee Land. Sometimes a bevy of plump 
bob-whites rises before you on whirring wings, 
sails off beyond the bushes, drops to the ground 
and runs away. At noon the ruffed grouse leaves 
his fallen tree in the woods and finds delicious 
pickings in the frozen huckleberry-patch. The 
crows are everywhere — in the distant tree-tops, on 
the wing far up against the sky, or pacing the icy 
floor with stately tread. On the big eagle- tree 
near the point of the island are the downy wood- 
peckers working industriously over a great spread 
of warm bark, which they must surrender in the 
spring to the red head and the golden wing. 

Mention of the eagle-tree calls to mind that it is 
said to have been for a period of many years the 
nesting-place of a pair of bald eagles. The great 
bird which supplied us with the national emblem 
is still at home along the Kankakee, and was for- 
merly a common feature in its life. We can be- 

Eagle Point 33 

lieve that in the old days the young eaglets were 
indeed nestled in their traditional tree. The lat- 
ter is a white oak of monstrous size, rising from a 
spot in plain view of the river, and the great naked 
arm which it still lifts high in air has always re- 
mained a favorite lookout for the birds of prey 
that scan these fields. The island as a whole 
seems never to have been distinguished by any 
name or title, but those who fared this way knew 
the spot from the circumstance of the tree, and 
called it Eagle Point. 

There was still another tradition associated with 
this venerable oak, and, in fact, inscribed upon its 
massive shaft. Doctor Sandy would point to a 
broad scar on that side of the tree which was turned 
toward the river, a spot at one time plainly visible 
from that direction, though now obscured by in- 
tervening foliage of recent growth. The scar — 
so he maintained — was an Iroquois sign made by 
a war-party of the Five Nations during one of their 
memorable expeditions against the Illinois. The 
Iroquois had left a message to their friends coming 
after them, and its terms had been cut in the white 
wood and were doubtless sometimes renewed or 
changed in after years. The Kankakee was the 
favorite route by which, for a long period of years, 

34 Tales of Kankakee Land 

that cruel and relentless foe made its disastrous in- 
cursions into the lands of the less warlike tribes of 
the West — the Miamis, the Illinois, and the Wis- 
consin Indians. It therefore seems not improb- 
able that the old eagle- tree was also the "witness- 
tree" — as Doctor Sandy was wont to say. 

What dreadful import may have lodged in the 
message inscribed and painted thereon, and how it 
froze the hearts and palsied the utterance of the 
captives brought back from the Illinois, or what 
new anguish it may have foretold for them, not any 
record may now reveal. But full well we know 
that the signs emblazoned here contained no 
honeyed phrase for the western tribes; for never 
did an eagle in all the life of this aged tree pitch 
from the heights above on its cowering victim in 
the grasses below with half the vengeful fury that 
impelled the murderous onslaught of the Iroquois. 
Long ago the rains from heaven washed out the 
colors in the fatal sign; long ago the life-currents 
of the tree drew the nice folds of the new growth 
over and across the hated mark; but the scar 
must ever abide, like the white man's memory of 
the Iroquois' cruel heart. 



By the side of an ancient path leading down to 
the big bowlder that formed the very point and 
beginning of the island, was a small plot of ground, 
a natural terrace, whose surface was covered by 
the plum-grove. Overtopping growths of the fox- 
grape made still denser the thick shades of the in- 
terwoven plum branches. The place afforded a 
fine covert for the hunter, who was screened by the 
ample canopy overhead and by the tops of the 
willows in front rising from the lower ground far- 
ther down the slope. He could sit back in the 
shade and, glancing over the willows, find it easy 
to watch the marsh on either side and all the plain 
through a wide sweep for miles and miles away 
down the stream. Stationed here when ducks 
and geese were on the wing, one could know long 
in advance what birds were coming, and could 
have his nerves all steadied down and be ready to 
step out on the grass in front of the plum-trees 


36 Tales of Kankakee Land 

and draw a bead on the flock as it passed over or 
swung to either side. And the grove was also his 
camp, a single sheet of sloping canvas furnishing 
a water-shed. Along one edge the canvas was 
made fast to the boughs, while the opposite border 
was secured near the bottoms of several of the 
small tree-trunks. A few armfuls of dried reeds 
spread on the ground beneath this sloping roof 
were covered with blankets. These simple ar- 
rangements left little to be desired for the comfort 
and convenience of the hunter. Advantages like 
these were worth going a long way to find, and 
when found would be kept in mind and sought out 
again and again. It was the plum-grove with its 
fortunate location and natural convenience that 
more than anything else had made Eagle Point a 
favorite resort for Doctor Sandy and myself. The 
hunting — or rather the shooting— was left to me. 
The doctor was something of a hunter, too, but it 
was the remarkable floral wealth of the island that 
moved him most, rather than the bird-life or that 
of other denizens of the parts. While I was in- 
tent in watching the movements of the ducks, he 
was busily at work searching for some rare flower 
or gathering his store of roots or herbs. I recall 
that he found pipsissewa more abundant here than 

The Flaming Sea 37 

elsewhere. It is a small plant with evergreen 
leaves, and was formerly well known as an Indian 
remedy for rheumatism and kindred ills. 

On the occasion of one of our visits to this spot, 
Doctor Sandy, having finished his labors early in 
the afternoon, returned to the inviting shades of 
our camp. It was a hot day and no ducks were 
on the wing. So we sat in our cool retreat beneath 
the plum-trees and the vine, watching three marsh 
harriers. Throughout the day hawks of this spe- 
cies are unremitting in their careful patrol of these 
regions, bog and pool and the rustling rice. The 
harriers were circling over one of those immense 
tracts of reeds that thrive so wonderfully in. this 
place, the stems standing very thick and attaining 
often a height of seventeen and eighteen feet. The 
heavy frosts had left every leaf-blade dead and 
sear. The remark that a firebrand dropped into 
this tinder-box of withered foliage would spread 
speedy havoc, was confirmed by Doctor Sandy 
with something more than his usual emphasis. 

No other man understood more thoroughly how 
awful might be the fury of such a conflagration; 
for a lifetime he had studied the power of these 
flames and their effects on the fortunes of the Kan- 
kakee. He began to speak of these effects and to 

38 Tales of Kankakee Land 

show that the rank vegetation would long since 
have filled up the entire valley and made it dry 
land, had it not been for the annual ravages of the 
flames burning great holes and veritable gulfs in 
the deep peat-beds during a dry season. Talking 
in such a strain as this, Doctor Sandy ran on, until 
his memory, jogged by the conversation, finally 
gave up a detailed account of one of those great 
marsh-fires such as from time to time have ravaged 
the wide, watery plains of Kankakee Land. Not 
the least of the charms in the tale's rehearsal 
was a certain simplicity of statement comporting 
well with personal experiences such as few have 
ever sustained or would wish to, and from whose 
shock a man might never entirely recover. In- 
deed, all the minor details, as well as the more 
startling facts, gave the account such an air of 
reality that no listener could fail to receive them 
as the calm, though very forcible, statement of 
one of the many real and fearful tragedies enacted 
in this wilderness through ages past. 

"That green pool of deep water over there at the 
left,'' said he, ''was dry land in 1835. It was cov- 
ered with grass like that on the upland prairies 
and was firm enough to walk upon; and although 
there were no trees on its surface, the ground 

The Flaming Sea 39 

seemed as substantial as this island. But on that 
date the ground went out of sight, and ever since 
deep cold water has held the place." 

"About this time in the fall of that year," thus 
Doctor Sandy continued, "I came here with The 
Black Feather, an Indian boy of your age, or, it 
may be, older by a year or two. I had found him 
useful in my work, and it was now my intention 
that he should gather calamus -root down there be- 
yond the tamarack swamp. The sweet-flag roots 
which grow there are not always so large, but they 
are finer and firmer and seem more pungent. I 
intended to dig sassafras in those clumps along the 
side of the island. Before we began our tasks, The 
Black Feather dropped the remark that old Poco 
had a great deal of ginseng which he and his family 
had collected and were holding until I should call 
for it. Poco was a half-breed who lived many 
miles down the river where the stream begins to 
widen into one of the long narrow lakes. I would 
need the ginseng in a few days, and therefore 1 
determined to change my plans and have The 
Black Feather paddle down to Poco's lodge and 
return with the roots as soon as possible. I would 
get out the sweet-flags and let the sassafras go; 
that would be just as well, too, for the fall of the 

40 Tales of Kankakee Land 

year is not the best season for taking the sas- 

'^ So The Black Feather folded a deer-skin into 
a sort of cushion, which he laid in the end of the 
canoe. Kneeling on this, he took the paddle and 
was soon rounding that bend in the river. I 
watched to see his head emerge from behind a 
fringe of bushes that covered the bank nearly as 
far as the next turn. I would see him while he was 
making the turn. I must admit that I was struck 
with a feeling of loneliness and wanted even a last 
glimpse of that Indian boy. I watched closely, 
but saw nothing of him. I waited for some time, 
wondering why he did not appear. Presently, I 
saw him returning, and, just as he was stepping 
lightly from the canoe, I observed the cause of his 
action. We both climbed upon the bowlder there 
and stood for some minutes studying the obscure 
outline, the color and the slight movement of a 
little cloud that rose far, far beyond the place where 
the marsh and the sky meet. Then we came up 
here by the plum-grove to get a better view. The 
Black Feather thought that it would be prudent 
for him to stay, but the danger seemed slight and 
I wanted the ginseng at once, if ever. The store 
was very valuable and would find immediate sale. 

The Flaming Sea 41 

I told him to hasten, to look out for himself, and 
to return with all possible speed, and that he should 
tell any Indian he might find fishing on the river 
below to come with a canoe at once to Eagle Point. 
If I felt lonesome when he first set out, this time I 
almost trembled at my own rashness. I watched 
the cloud for a long time. I thought I could see it 
change color. For a few minutes I was faint with 
fear, and then I grew calmer and looked around 
me to see how I might protect myself from threat- 
ened danger. When I came to look the matter 
squarely in the face, I quite recovered from my 
state of trepidation. There was not any so great 
risk, nothing more than a slight possibility of se- 
rious harm, I said to myself. Then my fears took 
hold of me again. 

''There was a vine at that time encircling the 
eagle-tree and winding out of sight among its 
branches. With its help I mounted to the lower 
limbs and then climbed quickly to the top, catching 
a glimpse of The Black Feather and his canoe as I 
went up. He was making haste, indeed ; he could 
not have gone faster. How beautifully he twirled 
the light paddle and how deliberately he held on 
' J each stroke just long enough to derive the fullest 
and best effect from his effort, and how like a run- 

42 Tales of Kankakee Land 

ning deer the canoe glided from bend to bend! 
The sight was a rehef at first, and then it filled me 
with a new fear. Were there causes for alarm 
which the Indian had not fully disclosed before he 
went away or had since perceived? And then I 
saw him turn the prow on to the mud flat at that 
place where the river approaches near the firm 
land. There was something there to help him, a 
dead limb, perhaps, on which he could stand and 
push the canoe along over the surface of the slough. 
Standing alternately on the object and then in the 
canoe, he worked his way to soil that would sustain 
his weight, and so reached the solid shore-line of 
the marsh. I saw him draw out the canoe and 
hide it in the alders, and then he shot into the forest 
and was gone. Of all this I heartily approved, and 
was devoutly thankful for the boy's wise thought- 
fulness. I understood his plan. An Indian lived 
near this place. The Black Feather would desert 
the canoe for the rest of the journey, secure a horse, 
and make a dash through the woods. A beaten 
path all the distance would enable him by dint of 
a few hours of hard riding to reach a ford that cut 
an angling way across the marsh. Once safely 
on the other side, it was but a little run to old Poco's 

The Flaming Sea 43 

*' In traversing the ford, he could not use the 
horse; for there are places where the animal would 
find no footing. He would tether the steed in the 
woods, and stripping off his clothing, would wind it 
in a convenient bundle, so that he might hold the 
latter above his head in those places where the water 
is deepest. The ford is made of sand, spread on the 
bottom of the marsh in a location where the water 
is distributed at nearly an even depth from shore 
to shore. It angles in several places so as to avoid 
springs whose currents would be an inconvenience 
to the traveller, and might also disturb the sands 
so carefully laid down. The white man may well 
marvel at the ingenuity of the hand that constructed 
this firm trail through the waters, choosing the de- 
vious line that alone of all made such a pathway 
possible and permanently secure. Some of the 
ancient races must have toiled at this task, some 
that had never heard of the horse; otherwise ma- 
terials had been used that would sustain his weight, 
as well as that of man. But The Black Feather's 
steed will not have long to wait for that impatient 
rider's return. 

" Seeing clearly my Indian boy's plan of action, 
I might have descended at once from the eagle- 
tree; but I stopped for an hour or more and held 

44 Tales of Kankakee Land 

my eyes on the place where he had vanished from 
sight. Each moment I hoped to see someone ap- 
pear with a canoe sent for my rehef. No one 
came. Then I knew that The Black Feather had 
found an empty lodge in the place where he had 
hoped to obtain a horse. The inmates of the 
lodge had doubtless gone over into the valley of 
the St. Joseph to prepare for the winter hunt, as 
was their custom at this season of the year. Al- 
though this was a new source of anxiety to me, 
since it wellnigh cut off all hope of relief for my- 
self, which I might sorely need, yet it would 
scarcely delay my messenger. He would find a 
horse without difficulty. Hundreds of them were 
roaming through the woods and dry meadows that 
skirted the Kankakee. Before I descended I scru- 
tinized with greatest care all the winding loops and 
turns where the river draws its thread of silver 
through the varied carpet of summer's green and 
autumn's gold that now o'erspread this strange ex- 
panse. From behind that tiny island far to the 
east and north the slender current first came forth; 
and thence I held it fast with my eye, intent for the 
slightest evidence of human life, until pursuit was 
lost in the dim haze that now commingled plain 
and sky in the west. I was alone in a vast sea. 

The Flaming Sea 45 

"How desolate, how utterly forbidding, appeared 
this sodden and quaking floor that stretched away 
in unending bog and black ooze and bottomless 
pools! There was a fascination in the scene, it is 
true, but at this moment it was the fascination of 
horror. Sick at heart, I began to let myself down 
to the lower branches of the tree. I had descended 
only a little way, when a number of yellow finches 
that were perched for a moment's rest on the top- 
most twigs, spread their wings and burst into 
joyous song as they fled away. I watched the 
peculiar undulations of their flight, until my senses 
could no longer distinguish song or singer. It was 
a most trifling episode, but it stirred within me a 
new courage. In my inmost soul I blessed the 
happy hearts that were glad in this evil hour be- 
cause God had given them wings. He had given 
me reason, and without further delay it must exert 
itself for my deliverance. 

" I slid down the vine, but before I had reached 
the ground I had determined to abandon all further 
efforts to gather the sassafras or sweet-flags, and to 
apply myself at once to the construction of a raft. 
It would be foolhardy, if not criminal, to brave the 
dangers of this place while such a means of escape 
could be provided. But search as I might, I was 

46 Tales of Kankakee Land 

not able to find the axe. The Black Feather had 
stowed it away in some place unknown to me, or 
had taken it with him. The situation was desper- 
ate, but I found a way out of the trouble. Down 
near the tamaracks was a clump of alders. I 
gathered dead brushwood and placed it around 
such of them as were large enough to furnish 
suitable timbers for the raft. Setting fire to the 
brush, I fed the flames until the green wood of the 
trees was deeply charred. I then pulled away the 
embers, and with the mattock which I had for 
digging roots, chipped off the charred wood and 
then kindled the fires again. Repeating this 
process many times, I finally brought down the 
trees. This was the old Indian way of felling a 
tree in the ancient times, when they had no better 
tool than a stone axe. I had often heard it de- 
scribed and found that it worked as stated, though 
the method now proved a very slow one. 

" I was much absorbed and know not how long I 
toiled in this way. I had not noticed that clouds 
were drifting across the sky; but when I looked up ^ 
again, it rained. At first it was only a drizzle, but 
even that seemed a blessed promise of relief. Then 
rain -drops came down big and fast and hard. As 
I stood by, resting and meditating, it occurred to 

The Flaming Sea 47 

me for the first time that I might have rendered the 
island a comparatively safe retreat by firing the 
dry grasses on all sides. This would have estab- 
lished in a gentle way a wide zone, across which the 
fiercer flames could not have reached. This, too, 
was a device of the red man's. I was greatly 
chagrined at thought of my stupid neglect. It was 
now too late, since the dead vegetation was thor- 
oughly drenched. The rain ceased after a time, 
and the clouds in part disappeared. When the 
grasses had dried, I would apply the torch. I went 
on with the building of the raft. Fires were 
lighted under the prostrate tree-trunks, so as to 
sever them in lengths proper for the purpose in- 

"It was while thus engaged that I observed the 
tree-tops on the island beginning to bend and sway 
under the pressure of a powerful wind. In the 
same moment the air was laden with the whirr and 
whistle and flutter of innumerable wings, and the 
quick calls of little birds, and the affrighted cries of 
vast flights of the wild-fowl. I ran to the nearest 
high point on the right side of the island and beheld 
a huge cloud hanging low in the west and spread 
along so as to shut out the sky-line for some dis- 
tance. It was miles and miles and miles away, 

48 Tales of Kankakee Land 

but it was there; now black and ugly with fearful 
portent, now glowing with the dull deep red of in- 
ternal heat, and now paling into ashy gray. The 
wind was rising into a gale, but it bore along the 
odor of lilies and flags and sweet grasses aflame, 
the choicest incense that ever rose to the nostrils 
of the Fire King. Not until a considerable time 
thereafter was the atmosphere tainted with smoke 
of any degree of pungency. And the birds were 
ever5nArhere a darkening cloud, jostling each other 
in mid-air or settling in the reeds for a brief stay 
and then rising again in mad haste, teel and 
plump little butter-balls and mallards and swift 
spirit ducks and wild geese and an occasional 
swan and bitterns and herons and cranes sailing 
on ponderous wings; and, now and then, a re- 
splendent throng of snowy egret and hawks of 
every size and species and the osprey and the 
eagle; and borne along by the feathered tide, 
thousands and tens of thousands of little birds. 
The commotion was much increased by the hesi- 
tating flutter and momentary pause by which 
nearly all showed that they were searching for 
some convenient spot where they might settle 
down. It seemed strange, indeed, that any living 
creature blessed with the power of flight should 

The Flaming Sea 49 

be endowed with such feeble reason as to hover 
near these haunts that soon must be given over to 
death and destruction. 

" I knew instinctively what must be done. The 
labor necessary for the completion of the raft 
would consume the precious time in which alone 
escape by such means was possible. To be caught 
on the narrow river in a whirlwind of fire would 
be an awful fate. I ran back to the alders for the 
mattock, resolved to provide a safe retreat by 
digging a cave. But where? The low ground 
around the island would not do, since the exca- 
vation would fill with water, and the materials 
removed, when once dry, were themselves inflam- 
mable. To cut into the side of the higher bank 
of the island would be to suffer from exposure to 
scorching flames and suffocating smoke and the 
intense reflections from the burning plain. I 
heartily wished that the deep depression in which 
the spring rose had been at the lower end of the 
island; but even located as it was at the point, its 
sloping wall seemed to offer the best promise of 
speedy and sure success. I chose the bank on the 
side toward the approaching flames, and devoted 
my utmost energies to the task of constructing a 

50 Tales of Kankakee Land 

"The mattock served me well. A straight and 
narrow cleft was made, cutting down from the 
top. When these walls had been carried in to 
such a depth that to go farther would almost com- 
pel one to pass under the hill, it was necessary to 
stop, lest the earth should cave in from above. 
The walls were sloped and then hollowed out a 
little. I ran quickly for sticks and light brush, 
which I spread over the top of the excavation. 
One of the sacks which I always carried with me 
for holding small roots was then filled with mud 
from the pool around the spring and the contents 
spread over the brush. Above the mud I heaped 
up some of the loose earth. I had not thought it 
desirable to carry the roof down in front so far as 
to prevent my looking out. I wanted an open 
door and plenty of ventilation. To that end I 
had even left a small aperture in the roof. The 
smoke could not be kept out, but its effects could 
be overcome in another way. A way that I knew 
of was to cut a pair of eye-holes in one of the root- 
sacks and to slip the latter over my head and tie it 
securely at the neck. The parts covering my 
mouth could then be dampened, and the smoke 
drawn through such a wet screen would be cleansed 
of all injurious elements. All these preparations 

At tliat moment a dead bird fell throutjli the branches.' 

The Flaming Sea 51 

were through with in what seemed a short space 
of time. I thought that I even had time to look 
about me and study the probable danger with 
more deliberation. But at that moment a dead 
bird fell through the branches overhead and 
dropped into the pool. I hastened to the high 
ground above the little basin and found many 
birds with feathers in part burnt away and dying 
of fright and their wounds. 

" The scene was quite changed. The cloud in 
the west was now double, each part a great writh- 
ing, stooping, whirling monster of black smoke 
and red flame. Now they were widely separated 
and now rushing madly together, apparently 
crossing over to opposite sides or falling into each 
other's arms. A moment later they tore apart 
and whirled away. There were two of these giants 
of smoke and flame, because the river stood be- 
tween them. It held the one on the right for a 
time, while the one on the left shot away to ravage 
some peaceful meadow of waving grasses. The 
one on the right then turned his evil eye on some 
great gulf of towering reeds and bore down upon 
them with his hurricane of flame. And now each 
monster stole softly to his consort's side. At 
times, one lagged far behind, exploring the re- 

52 Tales of Kankakee Land 

cesses of some great estuary of the grassy sea. 
And wherever the burning feet of this Gog and 
Magog of destruction trod the trembling plain, 
a flaming sea was left behind, whose billows rose 
and fell with the wind, and for days thereafter 
nothing might effectually lay the tempestuous 
dashings of this fiery flood. And what a spec- 
tacle was the heavens — a vault of burnished cop- 
per! I was scarcely conscious that the day was 
gone, for darkness came not with the night. 

"A wind -driven fire sweeping through the length 
and breadth of the Kankakee resembles in many 
features the dreaded prairie-fires of the Western 
plains. But on the plains when the cyclone of 
flames has whirled away, there remains indeed 
a glowing field, yet the ruddy tints soon grow 
dull and disappear, while in our Kankakee Land — 
as we know full well — the persistency of the raging 
fires is not the least of their horrors. There are 
two reasons why the agony is here so intense and 
so prolonged. After a season of drought a layer 
of the spongy soil, in some parts of considerable 
thickness, becomes as dry as dust and is highly 
inflammable, and it is over such a surface that 
the fires long rage with furnace heat. Another 
reason is found in the exhalations from the deep 

The Flaming Sea 53 

and vast areas of decaying vegetation. When 
high winds bear down on the quaking lands, great 
volumes of these gases are given off, and contribute 
not a little to the lurid glare of the annual con- 
flagration. Even in the ordinary marsh-fires, that 
are peaceful enough and little to be feared when 
no wind is blowing, the escaping gases add much 
to the flames and greatly prolong them. 

"From my position here at the point of the 
island, the scene, while indeed appalling, was grand 
beyond the power of words to describe. Although 
the regions now engulfed in this elemental fury 
were many miles distant and the gale in its onward 
progress was often checked, or somewhat diverted, 
by the rising columns of hot air, yet at times the 
fires would leap forward with terrible accession of 
fury. It seemed that only a little delay could be 
hoped for ere they would bear down upon the 
place. Light ashes and charred bits of reed were 
falling in a continuous shower, the smell of smoke 
was growing more and more acrid, and I began to 
experience the stifling effects of the hot exhala- 
tions from the flaming sea. I speedily donned 
the tight-fitting mask made from the root-sack, 
having first dipped it in the waters of the spring. 
I then gathered up my possessions — a bucket, a 

54f Tales of Kankakee Land 

teapot, the mattock, and a ball of stout cord — and 
having filled the receptacles at the spring, retired 
to my den. I was not a little astonished to dis- 
cover that in my brief absence the place had been 
seized by several foxes. However, they yielded 
to my prior rights without a whimper and sat 
down just beyond the doorway. My coat spread 
on a heap of reeds which I had thrown in the end 
of the little apartment served for a seat. Having 
taken my place thereon, I glanced through the 
entrance to see what the foxes were doing. 

" A very unwelcome vision met my eyes. There 
on the farther side of the pool, and near its brink, 
three wolves sat on their haunches. At that moment 
the place was darkened by a cloud of smoke; in 
the next, a burning reed came trembling down from 
above and fell into the pool. But neither light 
nor darkness could divert for an instant the stony 
gaze of those yellow eyes turned straight on me. 
Yet the stare, though fixed, was in some degree 
impassive. It might be, however, the composure 
which came from nerves steadied down for a leap 
across the pool and the bloody struggle for pos- 
session of my retreat. Just then a mass of burning 
embers fell in the high reeds in front of the island. 
They flared up as though a coal had dropped on 

The Flaming Sea 55 

a heap of powder. I kept my eyes fixed on the 
wolves, and, reaching for the mattock, held it up 
where they could see its smooth bright blade. 
Without so much as a look to the right or to the 
left, two of the ugly visitors settled down on the 
ground at full length, while the other still sat 
upright between. Their action seemed to say, 
"Tis a bad time for you and ourselves; let us be 
at peace!' 

''Whence they had come and when, I did not 
know: they must have been sitting there during 
the most of the work of my preparation. And 
they may have come from some dry spot down 
in the midst of the tamaracks. I have seen wolf 
footprints in that vicinity. Your marsh-wolf 
is a wise old fellow and takes every careful pre- 
caution against danger. When I became con- 
vinced of the good intentions of these strange com- 
panions of mine at the spring, I could not think of 
molesting them. On the contrary, I felt con- 
soled, if not flattered, by their presence; for their 
coming meant that their animal instinct and their 
marvellous cunning had guided them to the spot 
which I had selected for my own safety. They 
knew the whole region; no better place could be 
found; I could rely on their judgment. Or, pos- 

56 Tales of Kankakee Land 

sibly, they had been watching me and were relying 
on mine. 

"At all events, we understood each other and 
were at peace. I was even bold enough a few 
minutes later to step up to the high ground to 
see what had happened to the reeds. They were 
gone, and dancing fires were eating deeper and 
deeper as the intense heat dried out the lower 
parts of the stalks and the surface earth. When 
the falling embers had ignited the reeds near the 
island, the greater conflagration in the rear had 
sucked the blaze toward itself and through all the 
vegetation in front of the island, accomplishing at 
a stroke what my forethought and diligence should 
have brought about before the rain began to fall. 

"The blaze was now running around the entire 
island and reaching up into the dry grass. The 
forest seemed to be on fire, but it was only the 
reflection from the autumn leaves. The dead 
trees would go, but other things on the island 
seemed now comparatively safe, since the dense 
growths in the surrounding marsh vegetation were 
being laid low in advance. This clearing away 
of the plain in all the vicinity was a most fortunate 
event. Few could experience its benefits and fail 
to regard it as a providential deliverance. The 

The Flaming Sea 57 

heat was so intense that I could not have endured 
the scene from my exposed station on the high 
ground, had not the root-sack covered my head. 
Fortunately, I could remain long enough to wit- 
ness one of the countless tragedies of that mem- 
orable day. An egret that had taken refuge in 
the reeds not far from the island rose before the 
approaching fires, veered to the right and then to 
the left in uncertain flight, a bird of spotless snow 
all radiant against the golden flames. Bewildered 
and terrified, it strove to win its way on high, and 
thus hung on fluttering pinions, the very phoenix 
of the marshes. A moment more the rolling 
smoke drew a black curtain across the scene and 
hurried me to my covert. 

^'As I ran down, I noted that a pair of raccoons 
were settled near the pool, and several other creat- 
ures were scurrying about at the top of the em- 
bankment. They had been driven in from their 
burrows on the sides of the island, having been 
smoked out or burned out. But so blinding was 
the heavy, suffocating atmosphere that I felt the 
way to my abode rather than looked to see where 
I was going or what new companions were 
gathering to my side. Then came one of the 
most frightful events of all this direful expe- 

58 Tales of Kankakee Land 

rience. It was an outcry, the terrified 's blood- 
curdling appeal, that filled all the plain and the 
wood and seemed to shake the foundations of the 
solid isle. For a moment thereafter my palsied 
sense was deaf to the roar of the flaming tempest, 
and then every creature about the pool gave voice 
to the emotional shock. The wolves sent up a 
prolonged howl, the foxes barked in chorus, the 
raccoons whimpered and whined, and there was a 
clattering babel in and about the place apprising 
me of the fact that many poor creatures had stolen 
near, unbidden and unobserved. But of them all, 
I am sure that none had ever before heard that 
dreadful cry. What could it be? I had almost 
wished that a bear would creep in from the marsh 
and share our asylum. They were sometimes to 
be found floundering around among the lily-pads 
in search of roots. What would the wolves and 
foxes have to say at bruin's approach ? But none 
came, and if any such animal had been overtaken 
in the marsh, by no possible exertion could its 
deep guttural have mounted into that sonorous 
and appalling cry. Nor could the united scream 
of a hundred panthers have sent up that vibrant 
call for mercy. From what breast could it have 
pealed forth in that place and at that hour ? The 

The Flaming Sea 59 

hot smoke was so galling to my eyes that I kept 
them closed, except to glance from time to time 
across the pool or to look about in search of sparks 
that were continually drifting in at the door and 
settling on my clothing. Indeed, the black smoke 
now poured over us in such a dense cloud as to 
shut out the light and completely cut off vision, 
only as an occasional lull or shifting of the gale 
let in the full splendor of the flaming land and sky. 
"At such a time I looked down to stamp out a 
glowing cinder, when I beheld a pair of eyes. 
Some wretched denizen of these wilds had crept 
to my very side. I reached out and touched it 
gently with my foot, and I could see that it was 
white, at least in part. It made no resistance, 
until suddenly, with lightning celerity, the creature 
sprang on to my knee and mounted to my waist 
and to my breast, and was convulsively snatching 
at my clothing, ere I could grasp its soft fur in my 
hands. A flash of light came and I saw that I 
held in my arms a common domestic cat ! Mous- 
ing for field-mice and birds among the reeds had 
brought her to such a pass as this. I was glad to 
have her with me, when her nature and intentions 
were understood, but I shall hope never again to 
make the acquaintance of a cat under such cir- 

60 Tales of Kankakee Land 

cumstances. It is impossible for me to impart 
to another any adequate conception of the state 
of my nerves during my imprisonment on the 
island. So it will be understood that to have a cat 
leap into my arms gave me a shock from which I 
was slow to recover. Speaking of the state of my 
nerves, leads me to say that by this time my cloth- 
ing had been badly burned in several places and 
my skin terribly blistered, and yet I scarcely felt 
the pain, and in no sense realized my condition. 
My body ached — was full of agony — but I sup- 
posed it came from the tension of excitement, the 
stress of my anguish. The cat lay on my breast 
and shoulder in sweet content. Such was the 
roar of the elements that I could not hear her 
purring, but I could feel it. So pussy and I had 
a heart-to-heart time of it quite appreciated by 
both of us. 

"Suddenly, the animals grew restless. There 
was whining and whimpering and there were a few 
suppressed growls and some running about, while 
hitherto there had been that strange patient sub- 
missiveness with which the brute stoically endures 
the severe ills of flesh. It was then that the terrible 
outcry pealed forth again. It came distinctly 
from a place in the river not far above the angle 

The Flaming Sea 61 

at the big bowlder. Thereafter we heard it no 
more. At the cry, the cat on my breast rose 
trembhng and shook with fear. The roar of the 
burning had been steadily growing louder and 
louder, and whether or not it was a delusion of the 
senses, it seemed now to take on a thunderous 
rumble, like the furious tattoo of some horrible 
war-god. The crisis was at hand. At this mo- 
ment I must needs run to the spring for a bucket 
of water. I had used every drop to keep the root- 
sack wet, and the stifling air was parching my 
throat. The cat swung round and clung to my 
back. I stooped and thrust my whole head into 
the pool and rose refreshed. As I opened my 
eyes, I saw the wolves: they moved not a muscle. 
"The atmosphere was the breath of a volcano. 
I turned for one deliberate survey of the burning 
land and the towering flame. The brazen scin- 
tillations filled my eyes with tears; an acute pain 
shot through my throbbing temples, a pang so 
violent that I sank to my knees. I rose to look 
again, but for me the scene had vanished, the 
blinded sense could endure no more. Feeling 
for the vessel of water, I groped my way to the 
den. My swollen eyelids found delicious re- 
freshment in the icy-cold bath, and soon vision 

62 Tales of Kankakee Land 

returned again; but any look beyond the narrow 
confines of my abode filled my head with pain. 
'' Nearer and nearer crept the horrible thrum- 
ming of the conflagration. Suddenly, a thick hail 
of burning embers descended on the island with a 
fury that seemed to sound the fate of every living 
thing. Fortunately, there was not another such 
visitation; for had it been oft repeated, neither 
tree nor plant nor any living thing could have 
survived its desolating energy. Great tongues 
of livid flame then shot through the forest-trees 
from right to left and were as quickly withdrawn ; 
then from left to right, but fled away. The 
autumn foliage crisped at the touch, flashed into 
still more brilliant hues, and vanished in thin air. 
The Gog and Magog of awful passion were on 
either side and bending near. Then, as I could 
plainly hear and faintly see, they began their swift 
but heavy trampling, the one afar off to distant 
regions on the right hand, and the other away and 
away to those on the left. When these monsters 
sped back to join hands again, they stood on the 
river's brink a mile beyond this island's shore. 
Nor could they take one backward step. Faint- 
er and fainter came the sound of their going. A 
strange peace crept over the scene. The wind 

The Flaming Sea 63 

was still blowing a gale ; there was the crackling of 
flames and the surging of smoky billows and the 
tinkling of dead cinders falling everywhere; but 
I could hear the cat purring on my breast, and I 
knew that my life would be saved. I leaned back 
against the earth-wall and fell asleep from sheer 

"When I awoke, my body was full of pain and 
I could not open my eyes. At my side was a mut- 
tering and growling and the sound of gnawing 
and crunching of tender bones. I stooped and 
picked up the cat, but she twisted and writhed to 
escape my grasp, and there was the smell of burnt 
flesh about her, and I knew that she had been 
feasting, like a cannibal, on the body of one of 
our companions and fellow -victims. I threw her 
from me in horror. There was another sound — 
or was I mistaken? Was it a sense-delusion to 
vex my worn spirit? I stumbled through the 
entrance and put out my hand, and lo, it was true, 
it rained! I threw off the root-sack and knelt 
at the pool and bathed my eyelids again and again, 
until I could force them open to catch the hght 
of day, for it was morning. After a time the use 
of the cold water and the more vigorous circula- 
tion of my blood made it possible for me to hold 

64 Tales of Kankakee Land 

open my eyes so as to glance through a narrow 
rift and look about me. The three wolves were 
there, and their wild yellow eyes stared straight 
before them, though not at me. The two rac- 
coons were where the reeds had been, and the 
foxes were huddled in a heap. Several young 
opossums and an old one were crouched near 
the entrance to my cave, and rabbits and squirrels, 
driven from their retreats, had taken their last 
stand here and were scattered everywhere, singly 
or in twos and threes, in any position or place so 
as to be within the protecting walls of my depres- 

"It was a strange sight, indeed, where com- 
mon perils had fixed a truce in animaldom. And 
the truce was a lasting one for them, since the 
shafts of flame and smoke had shot them through 
and through, and one and all had succumbed to 
the fatal breath of fire. Now for the first time I 
saw the cat distinctly — a horrible misshapen creat- 
ure with loose- jointed frame and huge muscles 
unnaturally developed, and with a thick rough 
coat of grizzled gray, that replaced what had been 
one of black spots on a snow-white surface, and 
with torn ears surmounting a swollen and brutish 
face. Such was the cat-monster that now with 

The Flaming Sea 65 

ghoulish eagerness was leaping about among the 
dead. I seized a handful of stones and drove the 
hateful thing from the place. The agony of the 
hour had driven the creature to my place of safety, 
and, with the instinct of the happier and better 
days in the home of its youth, it had leaped into 
the arms of a human being. Danger gone and 
daylight come again, it had relapsed into the 
savagery of its degenerate state. 

''While the rain fell, the fires would be held in 
check, but the smouldering flames would burst 
forth again when the sky cleared. So, with all 
possible despatch, the timbers and other materials 
for the raft were drawn out of the mud where they 
had been buried for safety. I bound the logs to- 
gether with tough leather-wood bark, and, having 
secured the long pole and gathered up my uten- 
sils, I dragged the rude float into the river. I 
wet the root-sack and fastened it over my head. 
As I was pushing off, I observed a white horse 
up the stream a few paces lying dead against 
the bank. I could not stop to investigate in what 
possible manner the animal could have come into 
the place. There was a blue rift in the clouds 
near the horizon. Should the rain cease, the 
fires in the peat-banks of the narrow river would 

6Q Tales of Kankakee Land 

burst out afresh, and might suffocate or consume 

"To my great joy the drops continued to fall un- 
til I had reached a place where the river widened 
and its low, plashy margins contained no food for 
the flames. All in safety I came to the point where 
The Black Feather had lifted his canoe from the 
water. I found old Poco there. He had ob- 
served my approach and had built a causeway 
by throwing alder branches on the bog. The 
waters near his abode — as he reminded me — were 
of such a depth as to present only a scanty growth 
of those reeds that were food for the flames. It 
was therefore possible for him to cross the ford 
within a few hours after The Black Feather had 
passed over. He declared that he had found the 
bundle of ginseng-roots in the woods by the ford 
where The Black Feather's horse had been tied. 
The Indian boy had thrown down the heavy 
burden and hurried over the trail on foot, having 
found that his horse had taken fright at the near 
approach of the flames and had broken away. 
Poco had observed that a piece of the rawhide 
thong was still attached to the tree. We reflected 
for a moment on these disclosures of the half-breed, 
and then both of us turned to look for the canoe 

The Flaming Sea 67 

which The Black Feather had hidden in the alders. 
It was gone! We stared at each other without a 
word, struck dumb by consternation and dismay. 
Where was the Indian boy? 

'^ As we started to walk away through the woods, 
I began to experience an excruciating pain in my 
feet. I then discovered that my shoes were badly 
burnt and were falling to pieces. I removed them 
and found my feet covered with blisters. It was 
impossible for me to walk, except with great suf- 
fering. Poco therefore took me on his back and 
bore me to a spot on the high ground where the 
flames had not been felt. I stretched out on the 
cool grass and breathed a sigh of sweet relief. 
But immediately a thousand thoughts filled with 
fresh alarm began to rack my brain. My new 
companion and benefactor gave me a curious 
look and bade me lie very quietly, while he went 
in search of a horse. I remember that he started 
away on a run and that something roused the 
feeling within me that I very much needed his 
help and that he was deserting me. Three days 
later I roused to consciousness and slowly brought 
myself to understand that I was lying on a couch 
in Poco's lodge. The half-breed's wife was bend- 
ing over me and applying a cooling ointment 

68 Tales of Kankakee Land 

to my wounds. She was talking to her daughter, 
and then I knew where I was; for I remembered 
their voices and, also, I recognized the smell of 
the sumach and willow leaves in Poco's pipe. But 
I could see nothing, since my eyes were swathed 
with soft bandages. Wounds from burning are 
ugly ones and they heal slowly; mine were no 
exception to such a rule. I recovered, however, in 
time, and my nervous system regained its healthy 
tone. But the restoration of my eyesight was a 
most delicate piece of work. It bade fair, I 
thought, to be a hopeless struggle. The triumph 
eventually was due solely to the skill and the 
patience of my rude Indian nurse, who was a 
woman of much plain wisdom and of great good- 
ness of heart. 

^'The Black Feather's name, I was told, was often 
on my lips during the hours of my unconsciousness, 
and thoughts of him and his fate were ever present 
in my mind through the period of convalescence. 
I felt sure that he had crossed the ford and found 
his horse gone and had then hurried over the trail. 
Someone removed the canoe. Had he taken it 
and pushed toward the island in the hope of res- 
cuing me? Was he too late? and did he per- 
ish miserably, overwhelmed by the sea of flame ? 

The Flaming Sea 69 

These questions have never been answered. Al- 
though Poco went again and again to search the 
place for any tell-tale bit of evidence, neither he 
nor any man has discovered the facts which should 
set forth beyond peradventure the fate of The 
Black Feather. The secret of his taking off is one 
of those mysteries that so commonly, and often 
so sorrowfully, mark the affairs of the great Kan- 
kakee Land. 

^'I am convinced that the terrible outcry heard 
twice when the flames were near at hand must 
be charged to the white horse whose carcass was 
seen on the river -bank when I was making my 
escape. Such was the opinion of Poco and his 
wife. The cry is seldom heard, and is uttered 
only in a moment of great fear, when some awful 
and impending danger forces itself on the intel- 
ligence of the animal. The half-breed's family 
assured me that under such circumstances the 
voice of the horse is the most appalling cry in all 
nature. They also stated that the animal some- 
times acquires a strong liking for certain sweet 
grasses that grow only in the water, and, going in 
search of them, will flounder about in the mud 
and ooze far from land. Should a firm footing 
be found, he remains there, afraid to return. At 

70 Tales of Kankakee Land 

last, a step farther plunges him into a region of 
boiling springs, or he may be drowned in some 
sudden rise of the waters. The anatomy of the 
horse in old geological ages shows that the animal 
once found in the bogs and swamps the most con- 
genial conditions of its life, and this keen relish 
for the sweet grasses may be nothing less than a 
survival of the ancestral appetite, whose gratifi- 
cation demands a return to the habits of the horse 
primeval. The voice, too — is it the survival of 
powers developed through fierce encounters with 
the monsters of the ancient world ? '' 



Honey has been mentioned as one of the arti- 
cles of merchandise which my father gathered 
with such care in preparation for the annual ex- 
pedition to the East. To one at all intimate with 
the conditions of primitive times in this* part of 
the world, it seems strange that the later historian 
should so often ignore this important resource of 
the pioneer — the vast accumulations of wild honey 
sealed up in the forest-trees. To this day it re- 
mains — especially in Kankakee Land — the most 
delicious of all the tributes that man may exact 
from the forest -regions that lie contiguous to the 
Great Lakes. 

We are not surprised that James Fenimore 
Cooper should have found not far beyond the 
borders of the Kankakee the actual personage 
whose interesting skill suggested that famous 
character, the bee-hunter, so unique and so strik- 
ing in the fiction of the renowned novelist. For, 


72 Tales of Kankakee Land 

it may be said, this was par excellence the land 
of the wild bee — not only because it was the land 
of sweet gums and sugary saps, the land of violets 
and daisies, of blackberries and May-apples, of 
golden-rod and clover, of the grape, the plum, the 
black haw and the wild cherry; but also because 
of the varied character of the country. The cool 
depths of the big timber-lands, the rich grasses of 
the oak openings, the heavy turf of the rolling 
prairie, followed each other with an uninterrupted 
succession of buds and blossoms; and to these 
offerings were added, in this fair domain, a million 
acres of lilies and flags and pickerel plants lining 
the water-courses, or basking in all the sunshine 
of the Kankakee, or circling the little lakes that lie 
beyond the hills. These conditions spread for the 
bees a feast that offered the first nectar sippings 
while the snows were on the hillside, and that con- 
tinued to proffer the sweetness in their tinted cups 
until most of the autumn leaves had left the bough. 
This uninterrupted supply of flowers and fruits 
rewarded diligence with perpetual opportunity. 
Therefore, this is the land of the thrifty hive. 

A cooper kept my father supplied with casks 
and stout boxes, in which the honey, when re- 
ceived, was carefully laid away and sealed tightly 

Wild Honey 73 

with wax. Several local characters were known 
as bee-hunters, but most of our stock was pur- 
chased from Doctor Sandy. The latter's success 
in gathering these rich stores of liquid sweetness 
was due both to his own habits of keen observation 
while collecting his roots and herbs, and in a still 
greater degree to the sharp eyes of several Indian 
women who were employed to mark the trees for 
him. When a bee-tree was found, it was custom- 
ary for the finder to cut away the bark and write 
his name or initials, or make his mark, on the 
white wood. The contents of the bee -tree were 
then his property, and it had always been the strict 
law of the border that no man might then gainsay 
the right thus acquired, or in any way interfere 
with the title. But while it was easy enough to 
put your mark on any of these living beehives, it 
was often very difficult to find one when you were 
looking for it. In those days the bee-hunters were 
so few in number, compared with the vast range 
of the undisturbed forest, that a bee-tree quite 
generally stood unnoticed for many years, and 
when found was apt to contain enormous accu- 
mulations of honey. After a day spent in felling 
the trees and gathering the contents, it was not 
an unusual occurrence for the bee-hunter's wagon 

74 Tales of Kankakee Land 

to come home with three or four barrels filled to 
the brims. Sometimes an aged tree, when it came 
down, would break asunder, and a fountain of the 
precious contents pour out on the grass. A por- 
tion of this flood could be caught or recovered. 
It was placed in a separate vessel, and when they 
reached home a quantity of water was added. 
Most of the foreign matter would then rise to the 
surface so that it could easily be removed. The 
honey was still farther cleansed by boiling and 
straining through flannel. It was then boiled 
again until slightly thickened. In this manner 
the good housewives of the neighborhood had 
discovered that "cooked," or boiled, honey, pos- 
sessed a relish of rare delight, a refined joy, such 
as the experienced palate might know but the 
human tongue could never express. Quite beyond 
the dream of any epicure, for example, is that 
famous dish where the edgy tartness of cranberry 
sauce is smothered in boiled honey — so those old- 
time people will yet freely maintain. 

To find a bee-tree, the hunter, some day in early 
fall, waited until the sun's rays had warmed the 
dead leaves on the ground and had filled with a 
mellow haze the high arched avenues of the deep 
wood. He then began to set out the bee-bait in 

Wild Honey 75 

some convenient place on the border of the wooded 
land, or where the widest patch of sunshine spread 
itself on the forest-floor. The bait consisted of 
a few drops of maple-syrup, or any other sweet 
substance, diluted with water and held in a cup, or 
scattered over a clean chip, or dropped on a piece 
of paper. To make sure of the prompt attention 
of the bees, the knowing ones would fix a piece of 
honey-comb on the end of a cedar-splint which 
was set on fire. By these means the air was loaded 
with an incense sweet and aromatic — a lure very 
seductive to insect-life. 

But Doctor Sandy knew of an artifice still more 
potent. It was a compound whose ingredients and 
their nice proportions he was accustomed to dwell 
upon in a very particular manner. ^'Oil of anise, 
twenty parts" — he would say with eyes half -shut 
and then wide open — "Citronella, thirty parts; 
rosemary, ten parts; lavender, five parts; mix 
well. Place only a drop of the compound on the 
outside of the cup; fill the cup with honey and 
water, one half each." The Doctor's method of 
procedure was indeed very effective; for if there 
was a bee within a radius of a half-mile, it rose on 
wing to find the cup. How marvellous the subtile 
emanation that could work its strange spell through- 

76 Tales of Kankakee Land 

out so vast a sphere! and how refined — almost 
spiritual — the sense that could know such a charm 
and answer with responsive thrill! A common 
house-fly or a big blue-bottle fellow or a colony 
of ants might be the first to attack the sweetened 
water, and then a wasp would hover about. But 
soon, or it might be later, a real honey-bee, one 
and then another and another, would drop from 
above, and all hasten to feast themselves at this 
banquet laid for them. The next was the critical 
moment, as the bee rose to fly away home. With 
plainly apparent effort it struggled up a few feet, 
and then circling about for its bearings darted 
away along the traditional bee-line, whose direct 
and unerring course was the shortest distance to 
the hollow tree-trunk where the accumulated prod- 
ucts of prolonged toil were securely concealed. 

To note most carefully that line of flight and to 
follow where it might lead, was the nice task of 
the hunter, the cunningest of all the arts that 
woodcraft may show. It might be that the 
hunter could run but a little way without fearing 
that he had turned aside from the trail ; but, if so, 
he had but to stand and wait, assured that others 
hastening to the same hive would soon mark 
anew by their flight the lost line of direction. In 

Wild Honey 77 

this way, holding to a straightforward course, in 
time his practised eye would discern the aged tree 
where a hazy cloud of the honey-makers revolved 
perpetually before some knot-hole, the open door 
to the hive. 

One day Doctor Sandy and I were returning 
home along the Pottowattomie trail. We had 
spent the morning and a part of the afternoon at 
a certain huckleberry -patch where the berries were 
always large and fine, and each of us had brought 
away a full basket. We stopped to rest at a point 
where the path approached very near to the marsh. 
Stepping aside into the woods a few paces, we came 
to the top of one of those sand-knobs that here 
and there rise boldly from the edge of the bog- 
land. We sat down on a log where we could 
enjoy a good breeze and at the same time take 
in a wide view of the Kankakee. Far off in the 
marsh lay a small island with a few large trees and 
an area of pawpaw shrubs. The Doctor smiled, 
as he began to recount his experience in that place 
years before. In those days he had observed that 
whenever he had set out his bee -bait along this 
part of the trail, the bees would invariably rise and 
strike across the marsh in the direction of this 
particular island. The latter was too far away 

78 Tales of Kankakee Land 

for him to know that the bees actually stopped 
there, and the approach was of such a nature as 
to make it extremely difficult to reach the place. 
The bog was of just that consistency that will not 
support the human foot, and yet was so dense 
with matted vegetation and loose soil that no one 
could urge a boat through the mass. The Doctor 
had been foiled several times in the attempt to 
reach the island, until one day, stopping on this 
very sand-knob to rest and enjoy its elevated view 
of the region, he chanced to observe a she-wolf 
not far away parting the reeds at the margin of 
the wet land. With now and then a litde leap 
or hop, it worked its way by a zigzag course far out 
into the marsh and toward the island, apparently 
walking in the water without difficulty. He had 
not previously thought to notice that a narrow 
belt of pickerel plants, arrow leaves, and lizard 
tongues — that seldom grow well except in shallow 
water — extended as far as he could distinguish 
them, and he thought to the island itself. The 
wolf was making her way where they grew. 

Doctor Sandy felt inclined to try the place and 
see whether there was not a path there which he 
himself could traverse in safety. But he had no 
gun with him, and he feared that the wolf's den 

Wild Honey 79 

was in the island. If her young were there, an 
encounter with the excited and angry dam would 
call for arms. However, he came another day 
in company with an Indian, this time fully pre- 
pared to investigate the wolf's path and to secure 
the honey, if his surmise concerning the location 
of the bee-tree should prove correct. He found 
that shallow water covered a firm ridge of sand 
and gravel, affording safe and easy passage by a 
meandering line, whose location could be deter- 
mined quite readily by a slight variation in the 
color, or tint, of the vegetation. The path was 
also marked by the evidences of its having been 
much used, and recently by some animal that 
might have been a cow, judging from the deep 
impression made in the vegetation. Most of 
these matters were cleared up as soon as Doctor 
Sandy and his companion had set foot on the 
island. As for the honey, the smell of it was in 
the air; and the bee -tree itself, or what was left of 
it, was in plain sight. 

But they had come a day too late. Another hunter 
had discovered the rich stores and had knocked 
off patches of the dead bark, and although he had 
not written his name, he had plainly left his mark. 
In fact, the one that had profited by the Doctor's 

80 Tales of Kankakee Land 

delay was even then at hand and busily at work. 
The tree containing the hive was an old one, now 
dead, and, indeed, so far gone in decay that a 
strong wind had broken off the top part. The 
trunk had given way in just the place where the 
hive was located, so that a portion of the honey 
had come down to the ground. A little black bear 
had followed his nose all the way from the main- 
land and had at once entered his claim to the 
contents of the tree. The bear had found the 
bees actively engaged in transporting to a place 
of safety the precious treasure now so rudely ex- 
posed to the weather. He had evidently lost no 
time in making up his mind to assist them, and 
thereupon had devoured the portion that had 
fallen to the ground with the upper part of the 
tree. He had then climbed the stump and dived 
in at the top. Only a little of that part of the bear 
that had gone in last was visible when Doctor 
Sandy and the Indian arrived. 

They soon saw that it was a half-grown cub 
that had robbed the bees' nest. The little fellow 
was so absorbed in his feasting that he had failed 
to observe their approach. And in truth, when 
he had worked himself up out of the hive in re- 
sponse to their heavy pounding on the tree-trunk, 

Wild Honey 81 

he was not in any condition to see, or even hear, 
what was going on. His head was so completely 
plastered over with honey and dead wood and 
bark and even grass and leaves, that his eyes were 
sealed shut and his ears quite effectually stopped ; 
nor could the vigorous use of his paws at once 
relieve him of blindness and deafness. The 
Indian continued to pound on the tree-trunk, 
begging that the bear should not be shot; and the 
latter, notwithstanding the bad mix-up in its 
affairs, began to descend tail first — if anything 
without a tail could be said to come down in 
that way. 

The Indian drew his hunting-knife. With such 
a weapon his fathers had met Bruin, and he 
would follow their example. It was an easy task, 
and yet it required a well -delivered blow. When 
the animal, growling and whining, had descended 
to a point within easy reach, the blade was driven 
home to the hilt. The bear, clutching at the 
weapon, lost its hold and rolled over on the grass, 
but could not rise again. Had it not been for its 
blindness, it doubtless would have dropped to the 
ground before coming within reach of the Indian's 
knife; the latter might then have had a very dif- 
ferent task. But, as the event transpired, the 

82 Tales of Kankakee Larid 

bear was not hard to deal with, and quickly lay 
still in death. 

*^It was a strange sight," said Doctor Sandy, 
^^for surely no stickier little cub ever turned its 
toes in air ! " They divided the bear -meat between 
them and left the bees to do what they could with 
such of the honey as might still remain in the 
ruined hive. Before leaving the place the Indian 
discovered that the footsteps of the wolf led across 
the island and in the direction of a big sycamore 
that rose from a little knoll in the marsh far 



When I was old enough to handle a gun, I 
sometimes went down the Pottowattomie trail to 
their village. Even more delightful than the 
subsequent pleasures of the hunt was the study 
of the old Indian landmarks to be seen along the 
way. One could not easily forget the peculiar 
features of this old trail, its bright vistas, its weird 
shades, and its charmed atmosphere — especially 
if he had followed its winding course a few miles 
in company with Doctor Sandy. Much food for 
thought was to be found in the latter^s pleasant 
discourse concerning the stirring scenes of the old 
life — the stories and traditions, one or more of 
which each turn in the way was sure to call to 

This Pottowattomie trail coming up from the 
Illinois country and skirting the entire marsh re- 
gion, passed over to the St. Joseph and was merged 
with the great Sauk trail. Throughout its course 


84 Tales of Kankakee Land 

it was an Indian path, with all the features that the 
term might indicate. It never crossed over a hill 
which it might go around; it crept through the 
hollows, avoiding, however, with greatest care, 
those conditions in which a moccason could not be 
kept dry and clean ; it clung to the shadows of the 
big timber-belts, and when an arm of the prairie 
intervened, sought to traverse such a place of 
possible danger by the route which was shortest 
and least exposed. At every step the ancient path 
tells the story of wilderness fears. Yet the pre- 
cincts of this venerable avenue of the old life had 
also their own peculiar delights. A warm and 
sheltered path in the winter-time, its fragrant airs 
were cool and soft in the summer days. All the 
woodland flowers crowded to its margin, the blue 
violets and the white ones, yellow honeysuckles, 
the fringed gentian, the roses, the ox-eyed daisies — 
and, where the shades were damp and dark, 
yellow ladies' -slippers and purple ones. When the 
heavy foliage above parted wide to let the sun- 
beams fall on some gentle slope, there was the 
strawberry-bank all white with promise, or glowing 
with the ruby red of its luscious sweets, or throwing 
abroad the tender leaves of its pink stoles to make 
sure the feast of coming days. The birds loved the 

Pe-ash-a-way the Miami 85 

red man's path, stationed their homes in the 
thickets that bordered its course, sang their morn- 
ing songs beneath those rifts where the blue sky- 
looked down, and there, while the twilight lingered, 
warbled their evening hymns. 

And, then, to the Pottowattomie this, above all 
others, was the ancient highway of his people. All 
the pageant of their life was there in the spring- 
time and in the moon of Falling Leaves. Along 
its course he saw the war -parties filing away to 
find the enemy in distant lands and among strange 
peoples — the Kanzas on their wide plain, the 
O sages by their river, the wise Omahas, the lordly 
Mandans, the fierce Arickarees. And when the 
forest-walls of the old path were aflame with au- 
tumn's glory, he heard them re-echo the exultant 
cry of the returning band, saw the unhappy cap- 
tives schooling their hearts to a stoic's calm, or 
following with proud disdain in the footsteps of 
their conquerors, or nursing thoughts of grim 
vengeance by glaring scowls and mutterings vain. 
At such an hour the Pottowattomie, standing by 
the path of his fathers, rejoiced to know that the 
name of his people was terrible in the land of the 
enemy. When these scenes were over, the old 
men loved to wander along this path and rehearse 

86 Tales of Kankakee Land 

the stories of the past, and tell of the times when 
they with their people in tumultuous throng hurried 
home from the chase. With trembling voice and 
solemn gesture they pointed out the spot where a 
chief with warriors brave once fell victims to 
the deadly ambush; or, this was the tree where 
the children had been lured to their death by the 
mocking wail of a panther; or, in that place the 
Great Spirit with a countenance of light had 
spoken to his children in a voice of thunder. Thus 
on the old path they told off, as on a rosary, the 
sacred traditions of their people. 

When I went down this Pottowattomie trail 
for a hunt in those boyhood days, one of the 
Indian boys at the village would take me in his 
canoe to the south side of the marsh. The latter 
was narrow at this point and covered with a good 
depth of water from side to side. Ordinarily it 
was possible to find a great many prairie-hens 
around the hills on the south side of the marsh, 
especially during those seasons of the year when 
the birds had deserted the rolling grassy plains 
coming down to the Kankakee from the north. 
On one occasion, as our canoe ran up to the shore 
on the south side, we observed Pe-ash-a-way, a 
Miami Indian, standing at the summit of a sand- 

Pe-ash-a-way the Miami 87 

knob, or bluff, that juts out boldly near this place, 
with the marsh sweeping quite to its base. 

I knew him well, for his home was on the St. 
Joseph, and not so far from a farm which my father 
owned. Pe-ash-a-way often came to trade at our 
store, where he was quite willing to linger over one 
or more pipefuls of tobacco ; and at such times we 
had found him a man of intelligence and more 
communicative than most Indians. On this 
occasion, his superb physique, outlined against 
the scrub-cedar that everywhere overtopped the 
sand-bluff, made him for a moment a perfect 
picture of the ideal red man taking a last farewell 
of the land of his fathers. His attitude was, in real- 
ity, an invitation for us to join him. But we were 
bent on other diversions, and so went on our way. 

When we returned to the canoe, however, some 
hours later, finding that the Miami had not left 
the sand-bluff, we climbed to his side and showed 
him the game we had taken. In return he told 
us why he had remained so long in this place, 
stating that the graves of some of his people were 
in the side of the hill, and that on this account he 
sometimes visited the spot. He pointed out the 
burial-place of his grandfather — whose name was 
Petapsco — and then showed us the evidences of an 

88 Tales of Kankakee Land 

old encampment on the bluff. During his boyhood, 
it had been the custom of two or three Miami fam- 
ilies, his own among them, to come here from 
their home on the Wabash and encamp for ^he 
winter among the cedars. One winter could never 
be forgotten, because it was a year of famine. A 
prolonged and unbroken drought during the 
summer had been followed by very early and severe 
frosts in the fall, so that the ordinary resources to 
which man and beast looked for support were 
almost completely withdrawn. The corn was 
withered and dead before it was half -grown ; where 
rich grasses were wont to clothe the earth in living 
green that even the snows could not bleach out, 
the ground was now baked hard and cracked, like 
a fire-burnt stone; and even in the marshes the 
wild rice was killed by the frost before its grain 
had matured. Therefore, the wild herds had 
deserted the land, and the birds, too, had sought 
other fields. The woods, the prairie, and the 
marshes were still and dead. But there were fish 
in the streams and lily-roots in the bogs, and 
so the little Miami encampment had struggled 
through the terrible winter. 

So far as the question of food is concerned, 
people sometimes write and talk as though they 

Pe-ash-a-way the Miami 89 

supposed that the Indian had but to put forth 
his hand and appropriate nature's bountiful 
supply. At certain times this was indeed the case, 
but the Indian's normal condition was one of 
starvation. From infancy through life, he was for- 
ever threatened with the curse of hunger. To suf- 
fer daily want for months, and to be driven at last 
to subsist on such roots as he could find under the 
snow, or to eat the frozen berries that still hung 
on the thorn -trees; to see the weak and tottering 
steps of his friends; to look into the gaunt faces of 
his family and hear the plaintive cries of the chil- 
dren; to call to memory many of his people, both 
the brave and the fair, who in other days had 
perished from famine, such was the inevitable 
experience of the common Indian in all the tribes. 
These ills were not due solely to their improvi- 
dence, but largely to their laws of hospitality. 
While any had food, all had food. The frugal 
were thus compelled to suffer from the habits of 
the reckless. The Indian was most generous. He 
fed the hungry and clothed the naked, even when 
the petitioner was his open and avowed enemy. 
Not to do so was with him an inconceivable 
meanness and a violation of what he esteemed as 
sacred, the laws of hospitality. 

90 Tales of Kankakee Land 

But it was often impossible to obtain food of 
any kind. Dried venison would keep through 
the winter, yet it was not always possible to accu- 
mulate it in great quantities. As long as deer and 
other animals were to be taken, no pains were 
spared to find them. But it often occurred that 
a season unfavorable to certain forms of plant- 
life compelled the deer and the wild -fowl to desert 
their old haunts. These conditions meant famine 
and death for the children of the wilderness. At 
such times the Indian band was compelled to 
break up in small parties. These wandered off 
through the dreary woods, and the cold and cruel 
winter found them dispersed through a wide tract 
of country. Possibly they may thus snatch from 
the frozen wilderness the occasional comfort of a 
chance morsel of food. But some will never raise 
again their lodge-poles in the encampment of 
their people. One says to himself that he would 
not starve where any living plant was growing. 
If he could do nothing else he would tear up the 
grass-roots and eat them. Certainly he would, 
and so did they. They even gathered the frozen 
Hchens from some old tree-trunk, and, rubbing 
them into a coarse meal, strove to cheat their use- 
less kettles with this faint semblance of food. At 

Pe-ash-a-way the Miami 91 

such times they tested the quaHties of every species 
of plant-Hfe, if so be that the Great Spirit would 
grant that they might only live. 

Thus the extremities of famine led the Indian 
to a knowledge of the properties of plants. He 
knew what seeds and roots and barks and buds 
and leaves and tender shoots would ease the 
hunger-pangs even a little. It need not then seem 
strange that he came to know intimately the 
medicinal properties of plants. And what a won- 
derful fund of knowledge his necessities led him 
to acquire! Your druggist will let you read his 
dispensatory. Turn over its two thousand pages 
and you will discover that in a large number of 
cases where mention is made of an American plant 
with medicinal qualities, our information con- 
cerning the same has been derived from the 

When the white man came, the aborigines were 
able to tell him that the common dandelion plant 
and the leaves of our little trillium and the bark 
of the wild cherry afforded the best of tonics; that 
the leaves of the common plantain would heal a 
wound, and that those of the white lettuce would 
cure the rattlesnake's bite; that blue gentian 
would allay a fever; that pipsissewa would some- 

92 Tales of Kankakee Land 

times cure rheumatism; that thorn-apple and 
wolf's-bane and the mountain-laurel yielded dead- 
ly poisons. From his own materia medica the 
Indian was ready to prescribe for a long series of 
the white man's afflictions and his every-day 
accidents, his flesh-wounds, sprains, bruises, dis- 
locations, and broken bones. When headache 
and indigestion and fever would not yield to any 
of the common remedies, the Indian told the white 
man to take a bath and showed him how; showed 
him how to take a vapor bath, and then how to 
take care of himself when the bath was over. We 
cannot help but feel toward the Indian a profound 
respect when we consider his materia medica, 
founded as it was in experience and reason. 

One day in early spring, the grandfather, old 
Petapsco, and his little grandson, this man Pe-ash- 
a-way, whom we met on the hill-top, determined to 
do what they could to help the hunters gather 
something for the famished inmates of the lodges. 
The old man could not see very well and the little 
boy did not know very much, but by uniting their 
powers they might accomplish something. Then, 
this combination of old man and boy was quite 
in the natural course of events, for the Indians 
were very careful to teach their boys every trick 

Pe-ash-a-way the Miami 93 

and device by which success might be achieved 
through the hunter's art. The one would be an 
instructor, the other a pupil; and their friends 
sincerely hoped that they might bring home 
something to eat. 

There was some snow on the ground, lying here 
and there. They had not gone many miles before 
they found to their great delight the tracks of a 
deer plainly defined across a little patch of snow. 
At the point where the tracks left the snow there 
had been two tufts of dried grass, one on either 
side of the tracks. They stooped down and ex- 
amined the tracks very carefully, and then went 
around the patch of snow to the point where the 
deer had stopped to take a few hurried bites from 
the tuft of grass on the right side. The old man, 
after one or two quick glances across the beautiful 
crystalline sheet, turned to the boy and almost in a 
breath softly read the record left by that strange 
printing-press, a deer's hoofs. 

"The deer is a big buck," said Petapsco; "he 
is old ; he is tired ; he is wounded ; he is lame ; he 
does not see well with his left eye; he is near at 
hand, and unless the wind changes, he will soon 
be ours, providing another does not get him first." 

The boy was already enough of a hunter to 

94 Tales of Kankakee Land 

know how the old man had read such a record. 
The deer was a buck, as could be seen from the 
shape and size of the tracks. It was a big one, 
because of the depth of the impression. The 
animal was old, because of the distance between 
the right-hand tracks and those of the left side. 
The deer was tired, because .it had dragged its 
feet slightly in the snow, although walking rapidly. 
It was lame, because one impression was not as 
deep as the other three. It was wounded about the 
head, because the boy picked up beside the tuft 
where the deer had cropped the grass three or four 
hairs matted together by a few drops of half-dried 
blood. The deer did not see well with its left eye, 
because it had missed a tuft of grass on the left 
where it entered the plat of snow, and also the 
tuft on the left where it had gone off the snow. 
It was very near at hand, because during the night 
a thin crust had frozen over the mud about the 
patch of snow, and this had been broken by the 
feet of the deer. It was plain that another hunter 
had pursued this animal. The wound about the 
head suggested wolves. It looked as though a 
wolf had sprung on to the neck of the animal and 
bitten at its tender antlers, which at this season 
of the year were just growing and were conse- 

Pe-ash-a-way the Miami 95 

quently very sensitive. But v^olves hunt in packs, 
and some of the pack will follow a wounded animal 
to its death. Yet plainly none had come this way. 
Were they yet to follow? The man and the boy 
hurried forward, glad that their good fortune had 
enabled them to cut in ahead of the enemies that 
might be pursuing the deer. 

They had found the footprints near the border 
of an arm of the marsh, and they now followed 
them to the end of the arm and around to the 
other side. Here the tracks turned at a right angle 
into the surrounding woods. Petapsco and the 
boy followed the deer's footsteps through the 
bushes bordering the marsh and on to the higher 
ground in the margin of the woods. 

^^If the wolves are coming, why do we not hear 
them howl?" said the boy. 

^^The deer was not wounded by a wolf," Pe- 
tapsco replied. 

And as the old man spoke, the boy, who had been 
looking backward, saw a movement in the thicket 
on the opposite side of the marsh, and a moment 
later a full-grown and powerful panther leaped up 
on a log and stood motionless, for a long time, 
scanning carefully every clump of bushes on the 
margin of the marsh. It seemed motionless except 

96 Tales of Kankakee Land 

for the very end of its tail, which moved gently from 
side to side. 

Now the animal started forward a step on the 
log, every muscle drawn up taut. It was only 
a false alarm — nothing but a flock of snowbirds 
that rose in a cloud and flew away. Then the 
panther drew back into a sitting posture, yawned 
a deep yawn, threw out its great red tongue to ad- 
just the hairs on its upper lip, stretched out its 
front paws on the tree-trunk, distended its claws 
to their widest compass, and then scratched up 
the loose bark on the log. Petapsco's eyes were 
too dim to note all these motions, but the boy 
reported every movement. ^^We are safe," said 
Petapsco. "The panther yawns and stretches 
because it has slept. If it slept well, it is because 
it had a good supper the evening before. So it is 
not very hungry, not hungry enough to attack 
human beings. Now that it has got along to the 
place where we struck the deer's trail, it will see 
our tracks, and then it will keep back and not 
follow us so closely. But when we have killed 
the deer, the panther may try to get a part 
of it." 

The panther had now stretched out in the sun- 
light, as if inclined to take a nap. So the man 

Pe-ash-a-way the Miami 97 

and the boy very cautiously slipped off into the 
dark woods. 

Farther on, they found the deer and killed it. 
It seemed that the deer had been attacked by the 
panther the day before and had in some way 
succeeded in shaking it off. The panther had 
seized the deer by the left ear and had horribly 
lacerated the skin over the left eye, and these 
wounds bleeding profusely had closed the eye. 
The work of the panther's terrible claw was also 
plainly visible on one of the forelegs of the deer. 
The skin had been torn into strips, laying bare 
the tendons. Petapsco cut off the head of the 
animal and left it for the panther. The carcass 
itself was slung on a pole, after its hindfeet and 
forefeet had been tied together in a bunch. In 
this way they managed to get home with their 
fresh venison. 



In a few Eastern cities, fifty years ago, excite- 
ment had begun to run high concerning land 
values in the Northwest. In those days the rich 
border regions of the Kankakee were becoming 
well known, and were considered a very desirable 
species of property. For some time previous to 
that date, it had been a common thing for a group 
of well-dressed people from New York to alight 
from the stage, when the latter had rumbled up 
to the door of the tavern in our village. They 
were speculators seeking a profitable investment 
in lands. Some of them came for a prolonged 
stay, while others stopped only for a change of 
horses and to get a good dinner. But while large 
tracts of land were still in the market, these people 
quite generally discovered that shrewd investors 
had long preceded them and had secured the 
choicest portions of this exceptionally rich domain. 

An enchanting region, known as The Great 


The Pitiful Quest 99 

Island, had found favor in the sight of one of these 
early land -buyers. The tract was often the tapic 
of conversation at our fireside, for the place was 
well known to all of us and to our friends. It 
scarcely deserved the name of island, lying so near 
the mainland as hardly to be disjointed therefrom. 
Containing between two hundred and three hun- 
dred acres of land, it stretched along contiguous 
to several hundred more identical in character 
to that of the island itself. One reason why the 
spot seemed peculiarly attractive was found in 
the fact that we saw in it the conditions that had 
once prevailed in all the upland woods of this 
region; it had preserved the state of the typical 
Indian forest as observed by my father and others 
who were the first of our race to make their homes 
in this solitude. 

As described by these early witnesses, the 
Indian's forest in this part of the American wil- 
derness was like a park, and the litde prairie like 
a lawn. Such conditions were made possible 
through the instrumentality of the annual fires. 
When the leaves had dropped from the boughs 
and the heat of the late summer and the fall had 
reduced the dead herbage to a condition of tinder, 
then the flames stole up from the marshes, and the 

100 Tales of Kankakee Land 

blaze swept over the land far and near, creeping 
slowly through the forest, running quickly across 
the meadows, and rushing wildly over the prairies, 
like a mad hurricane. The fallen branches were 
thus consumed, any low-hanging bough was 
withered and scorched so that it died, and the 
tender saplings of a summer's growth were de- 
stroyed. And what was left alive when these 
waves of flame were gone? Only a great tree 
here and there. Those with massive trunks were 
able to survive, since they lifted their tender twigs 
far up out of harm's reach. In the spot where an 
exceptional condition of moisture in some degree 
exempted a young shoot from the fiercest rigors of 
this baptism of fire, a new candidate now and then 
struggled up for recognition in the forest brother- 
hood. But this brotherhood in general consisted 
of little more than giant trees standing far apart, 
like a straggling orchard, lifting their lower- 
most branches forty or fifty feet from the ground 
and overarching therewith stately avenues that 
wound in every direction. Over a level tract, 
one could see any creature, such as a fox or a wolf, 
moving through the forest a mile away. 

In this manner the woods and open tracts were 
purged once a year of every troublesome growth. 

The Pitiful Quest 101 

And when the spring rains began to fall, a pale 
tint of green shot over the open landscape and 
through the uttermost depths of the forest. In 
a few days a soft rich turf carpeted the plain and 
wood, affording a scene of sylvan glory such as one 
could find in no other land beneath the sky. The 
atmosphere of spring drifting through the Indian's 
clean, balmy woods — how sweet to him its breath 
must have been ! 

Such was this primitive forest of The Great 
Island, where the Kankakee fires, long after they 
were shut out from the uplands, perpetuated those 
charms that once had been the glory and the com- 
mon heritage of all the green woods and the sunny 
plain. The first of the land-buyers to mark this 
spot for his own, was a young man whose name 
grew to be almost a household word in the village. 
He spent an entire summer as a guest at the tavern, 
and his face and form and his black horse were 
familiar to all the towns-people, and to those who 
came and went along the trails of the Kankakee 
and the St. Joseph, and to the few who dwelt beside 
the stage-routes. If nothing else had made this 
man conspicuous in the life of the village and the 
surrounding country, he must have been known 
and remembered for the power and fine quality 

102 Tales of Kankakee Land 

of his rich baritone voice. This voice made its 
presence felt in the church-service, and sometimes 
it was heard in the public school mingling with 
the children's treble. But its richness and power 
were best known to those who met the singer in the 
paths of The Great Island forest or on the highway 
after dusk; for such was the freedom and sim- 
plicity of life in our quiet neighborhood that all 
who could sing never hesitated to do so in the 
open air. 

This young man who rode along our highways 
and sang his way into the hearts of the people, 
talked with many concerning the delights of The 
Great Island, really desiring to make his home 
there. It was known, too, that he possessed 
abundant means; yet the title to the land never 
passed into his hands. It was supposed that he 
was awaiting the consent of someone at home and 
that the consent was withheld. Whatever may 
have hindered the consummation of his evident 
purpose, it was surely with a sad and downcast 
look that he one morning left the tavern, having 
instructed the landlord to send his baggage by 
the next stage, two or three hours later in the 
day. He intended to walk along the road that 
here skirted the high banks of the St. Joseph, 

The Pitiful Quest 103 

and to step into the stage when it should overtake 

The driver was enjoined to be on the lookout 
for his man, nor did he fail in his duty. He even 
stopped the coach several times and as often called 
aloud and sounded his horn — an extremely sono- 
rous instrument, as all who ever heard it might 
testify. The woods and the river gave back the 
echo again and again, but the driver and the pas- 
sengers listened in vain for any other response. 

It is true, a woman in the coach thought that 
some heed should be paid to a sort of moaning call 
which she once heard, or thought she heard; but 
the others knew that it was only the notes of a 
turtle-dove. The stage-coach dropped the man's 
baggage at the next station, where it lay unclaimed 
for so long a time that the matter of its owner's 
disappearance began to be talked about. At 
length, those who had been most interested in him 
organized a party to search the woods along the 
stage -route and look into every patch of grape-vine 
shade on the river-bank and every tangled copse 
in the near-by fields. But nothing was learned 
throwing any light on the man's strange taking off. 

There were many French and Indian half-breeds 
working back and forth on the river at that time, 

104 Tales of Kankakee Land 

and it was well known that some of them were 
ready for any desperate deed. Suspicion fell on 
these and grew much stronger when it was learned 
that the valuable papers and a considerable amount 
of money known to be in the man's possession 
were not in his carpet-bag or travelling-chest, and — 
so it was thought — must have been on his person. 
But no one was able to bring the matter home to 
any of these desperadoes of the river, for there was 
no substantial evidence against them. The man 
himself was never seen again or heard of. His 
father appeared in our village in due time and 
himself prosecuted another vigorous search, but 
was unable to discover the slightest circumstance 
tending to reveal the facts of the sad mystery. 

Years went by, but the incident did not pass 
from the memory of those who were acquainted 
with all of its painful conditions. Therefore, 
such people one day felt much interest to see the 
father on the streets again and still in quest of the 
lost son, but now much broken by the weight of 
sorrow and of advancing years — though with a 
strange light in his eyes, as of a new hope. Some- 
times he rode off to The Great Island to spend a 
few hours in the delightful shades, as his son had 
so often done before him. Frequently he was seen 

The Pitiful Quest 105 

in the morning walking out along the stage-route, 
or leaning heavily on his cane as he returned in 
the twilight of the evening. To those who stopped 
to speak with him and offer a word of sympathy, 
he replied almost cheerily, and occasionally ex- 
pressed the belief that he should ^^soon know the 
truth." The total absence of any new evidence 
whatsoever created the feeling among those who 
conversed with him that his confident expectation 
signified some slight lapse in his mental powers. 
But his gentleness and his serenity of spirit, as well 
as his lively hope — at times buoyant and always 
secure, though apparently born of a disordered 
fancy — won the kindly interest of all. By and by, 
he began to fail visibly, and later he was seldom 
able to leave his room; and, when at length he 
took to his bed, it was known that the end was not 
far off. 

One day, however, he began to rally, and after 
a time, contrary to expectations, was seen once 
more about the inn and even on the street. It 
was in the fine days of early November, whose 
clear cool airs and bright sunlight had doubtless 
effected the restoration of his vigor. He began 
to venture again along the stage-route by the river's 
bank. On one occasion he failed to return at 

106 Tales of Kankakee Land 

night-fall. When an hour had passed and then 
another, some of his friends walked down by the 
river-bank to look for him. A few who continued 
long enough in the search found him without diffi- 
culty a mile or two away sitting in the bright 
moonlight on one of the high bluffs by the river. 
Greatly excited in mind, he was yet calm in de- 
meanor and deliberate in speech, though there 
was a strange tale on his lips. He began to nar- 
rate his experience, but stopped with the first 
words, so that all might listen attentively to a 
peculiar and exceedingly beautiful voice that even 
at that moment broke on the still night-air. Per- 
plexed and astonished, no one could discern from 
just what source the sweet sound proceeded. Nor 
could any of them either affirm or deny that it was 
a human voice they heard. It seemed like two or 
three varied strains of a song, yet no words could 
be distinguished. Some thought it was like a 
series of notes from softly pealing bells; others 
were reminded of the mellow tones of a flute, rip- 
pling soft and low and then rising loud and full. 
There was a note here and there that suggested 
to all the rich baritone in the voice of this man's 
son — gave them an irresistible feeling that it 
might be a spiritualized form of those melodious 

Sitting in the bright moonlight on one of the high bluffs of the nver. 

The Pitiful Quest 107 

accents. The father himself plainly shared these 
thoughts, which, however, neither he nor any of 
them expressed in words. The voice having 
spoken once to the assembled group, was silent 

When they felt certain that they would hear 
nothing more, the aged father explained that his 
absence had been prolonged by his weariness. He 
had wandered too far and, during the return, ex- 
haustion had compelled him to stop often for 
rest. He had paused in this very spot, and while 
waiting for his strength to come back to him, this 
wonderful voice had broken in on his musings. 
He had stolen cautiously toward the small tree 
from which it seemed to proceed, only to hear the 
heavenly strains in a clump of shrubs as far away 
to the right. Supposing that he had at first mis- 
taken the direction of the sound, he went thither, 
only to find the voice still farther removed. Seeing 
nothing, he had thus followed the alluring melody — 
whether the notes of a bird, the call of a human 
being, or the sweet song of a disembodied spirit, he 
knew not — until it had lured him on through a 
wide circuit and back again to the very spot from 
which he had set out. Here he had remained bewil- 
dered and distressed, with his hands pressed to his 

108 Tales of Kankakee Land 

temples in the effort to clear his mind and know 
whether he was indeed in the flesh, or whether it 
was not all a cruel hallucination, in which hope 
long deferred was now mocked in the tones of his 
son's voice. The group walked home in silence, 
nor was any of them thereafter able to determine 
beyond peradventure whether or no he had lis- 
tened to the salutation of a messenger from the 
spirit- world. 

It was Doctor Sandy that cleared up the matter 
in a manner quite to my satisfaction. One night 
some years after this strange incident, we were 
returning home together from a visit to one of the 
old Indian fields on the St. Joseph, when pro- 
longed and rapturous peals of melody assailed our 
ears from some point not far removed from the 
path. It was a moonlight night in this same 
month of November. Surely, this was the very 
voice that others had heard in this particular 
locality and under similar conditions. Doctor 
Sandy had no doubt that the notes' were those of 
a bird. He pronounced its Indian name, and 
stated that of all feathered migrants it was the last 
to leave our region. The Indians had the tradi- 
tion, said he, that this bird was never known to 
utter a note after it had winged its southward 

The Pitiful Quest 109 

flight across the marshes of the Kankakee, and 
its melody at night on the banks of the St. Joseph 
was, therefore, its parting song. Waiting for all 
others to quit the haunts of the north-land, it sang 
the requiem of summer joys and summer melodies. 
We call this little tuft of marvellous ecstasy the 
hermit-thrush, a creature possessed of the most 
wonderful, the most spiritual, voice on the con- 
tinent. As the Doctor and I stood in the soft 
light of the November moon and listened breath- 
less, the heavenly accents seemed to have strayed 
into our sphere from some choir of souls. The 
region of the St. Joseph is the southern limit of 
the bird's habitat, and while well known in the 
South during the period of the winter migration, 
it is voiceless there. 

And so it is a matter of little surprise that such 
a father mourning such a son should have listened 
to the hermit-thrush in wonder and amazement, 
and should have stood trembling, as in the presence 
of a messenger from the spirit- world. He was 
seen no more on the street, for each day found 
him feebler than before. As he approached the 
end the litde community felt more and more so- 
licitous for his welfare. The tale of his sorrows— 
and especially this new experience — was indeed 

110 Tales of Kankakee Land 

known to all. But there had been something in 
his character and conduct that had in a particular 
manner drawn the attention of little children, who 
would often go a little way with him in his walks; 
and of older boys, who would subdue their voices 
as he passed by, or would come close to his side for 
the pleasant word awaiting them. Therefore, to 
the last there was for him, although a stranger in 
our community, an increasing tenderness of feeling, 
that gentle balm of sympathy which good hearts 
reserve for the afflictions of a friend. Sometimes 
this delicate appreciation of his sorrows expressed 
itself in the compassionate look and quivering 
speech with which old and young dwelt upon his 
pitiful and hopeless quest. Sometimes, it was a 
bunch of wild -flowers which a child had gathered 
on the river-bank and had brought home for him. 
Again, it was a few clusters of white grapes, which 
were wont to thrive in the region and which the 
boys knew how to find. Or, it was a hatful of 
plums which they had selected for him from the 
purple tribute of those trees where he had rested 
in his walks along the stage-route. 

Finally, he passed gently away, repeating in his 
last breath, and with the bright light in his eye, 
the expression of hope which had so often fallen 

The Pitiful Quest 111 

from his lips, " I shall soon know the truth ! " And 
then his friends understood that his cheerful ex- 
pectation had never been the vagary of a dis- 
ordered mind, but the prophetic intuition and in- 
timation of his own approaching demise. 



If one should go down to the site of the old 
Indian village on the Pottowattomie trail, he could 
readily find the spot where in the ancient days 
the canoes were drawn up on the bank. The 
place is at the margin of an open sheet of water 
leading down to the Httle river in the midst of the 
marsh-land. And were it now possible for a 
person to take one of those canoes and follow the 
current of the river only a little way, he would 
arrive at a locality where for a distance of some 
rods a wall of bulrushes several feet in height re- 
places the usual tufted bank of the Kankakee. 
The region covered by these rushes and by those 
standing behind them — an area of several acres — 
is, in fact, the mouth of one of the river's tribu- 
taries, though a person unacquainted with the 
peculiarities of Kankakee Land would never sus- 
pect such a thing. The current of the tributary 
being so widely diffused throughout this mass 


Legends of Lost Lake 113 

of rank vegetation, the passer-by does not per- 
ceive that a considerable volume of water is here 
oozing through the long wall of rushes and min- 
gling with the sluggish tide of the greater channel. 

The stream that in this manner loses itself in 
the Kankakee is known in our day as the Bar- 
kosky ; now, however, a mere canal straight and 
deep. They have taken out all the sinuous curves 
and loops by which the ancient water-way crept 
from its source, Lost Lake. In ancient times, 
its Indian name was one derived from that of the 
parent body from which it proceeded; a name 
well applied, since both the lake and its outlet 
were completely hidden in the vast morass. The 
latter is one of those extensive regions where 
thousands and thousands of swamp acres lie con- 
tiguous to the Kankakee marshes and are linked 
therewith by many streams. The latter are fed 
by floods that well perennially from the secret 
depths of these strange lands. In the red man's 
day no human foot ever ventured on to the surface 
of this great morass. In the midst thereof were 
spread out the gloomy shades of a dense forest of 
tamaracks in plain view from the distant shore. 

But no one on the highest of the upland points, 
however carefully he might view the scene, would 

114 Tales of Kankakee Land 

ever entertain the slightest suspicion that em- 
bosomed deep within these tamaracks slept the 
quiet waters of Lost Lake. In the old glacial 
times, an iceberg stranded here had been twisted 
and twirled by the surrounding floods until it had 
ground its way deep down in the underlying 
gravel and clay. Into the ample basin fashioned 
thus and left behind when the iceberg was dead 
and gone, the springs had poured their sparkling 
tributes. To the circling margin the tamaracks 
had crowded in close array, from on high casting 
their long shadows o'er the fair expanse, and with 
the thick soft folds of their beautiful robes drawing 
about the place a dark screen effectual against 
every curious eye. 

Lost Lake was one of the tribal secrets of 
the Pottowattomies. Its conditions were to them 
a matter of supreme importance. It was a hiding- 
place, a secure retreat in the times of extreme 
peril. It could be approached only along the 
waters of the Barkosky, a stream which was itself 
buried away in the great swamp, and accessible 
only where it entered the Kankakee through the 
wall of bulrushes. In the old days this wall of 
bulrushes was never intact. Much of it was cut 
away, and other parts were rudely broken down, 

Legends of Lost Lake 115 

and for the space of an acre or more it could be 
seen plainly that the Indian women had been here 
to gather the material for their rush mats. The 
mats were used in carpeting their lodges and often 
in the construction of the walls of the latter, es- 
pecially during a season when the deer and the elk 
were hard to find and the few skins taken were 
needed for clothing. There were a thousand 
places where the women might gather rushes, but 
throughout the season they continued to take a few 
almost daily from the mouth of the Barkosky. 
These were removed to the village, where they 
were spread out to dry until a partial evaporation 
of their watery juices had rendered them tough 
and pliable. But why were one or two of the 
women always so careful to gather a few rushes 
at the mouth of the Barkosky, the secret doorway 
of their asylum? 

It quite generally happened that those of their 
enemies that cherished designs against the lodges 
of the Pottowattomies planned the attack for such 
a time as at least a few of the bravest of the latter' s 
warriors should be absent with their own war- 
parties. No matter how numerous the ranks of 
the enemy, the approach would be in secret. If 
the attacking party numbered only a few, they 

116 Tales of Kankakee Land 

would seek to strike a sudden blow and then escape 
by running away; if there were many of them, they 
must approach with more caution, so that their 
victims might not escape by running away. For 
a large party to approach unannounced was all 
but impossible. Therefore, they often came in 
small detachments, protesting friendship and 
passing on; yet with the purpose of turning back 
a day or two later, when others of their band had 
arrived at the village. But when the first of these 
enemies had come and gone, it was then the duty 
of the Pottowattomie runners to fly along by secret 
paths and both ascertain, beyond any chance of 
error, whether any more of their enemies were ap- 
proaching, and likewise keep a strict watch on the 
movements of the party, or parties, that had come 
and gone. If there was grave danger, signal-fires 
flared forth; the flame at night, and the pillar of 
smoke by day, told the story with unerring cer- 
tainty. At such a moment a watchman at the 
point of the high sand -knob across the marsh, 
having read the fire-signal, sent up the prolonged 
howl of a wolf and followed this with the cry of a 
bird, as agreed upon with those in the lodges. 
Answering bird-notes from those stationed through- 
out the whole region in the vicinity of the lodges 

Legends of Lost Lake 117 

informed the people whether the immediate 
vicinity was clear of any lurking emissaries of 
the foe. 

If it was found safe to do so, all the women and 
children of the village, when night had come, 
slipped out of the lodges without so much as a 
whisper. The burden, such as a bundle of cloth- 
ing or an infant in its cradle, rested secure on the 
shoulders and neck, and was held in place by a 
band passing over the forehead. The limbs and 
body must be free. All ran to the landing where 
the overturned canoes were drawn up along the 
bank, and one by one, stepping on the fine hard 
gravel of a made beach, waded cautiously into 
deep water, swam very quietly through the lagoon 
that led off to the little river, rounded the bend, 
and glided away down stream. The Indian 
woman was the strongest and most adroit swim- 
mer in all the world; the necessities of her life 
compelled such skill. 

But how was it possible for any human being to 
make progress through a water-course which, in 
some parts, was filled from bank to bank with 
entangling mosses reaching up to the very surface 
and waving with the current; or, in other parts, was 
nothing more than a wide bed of black mire with 

118 Tales of Kankakee Land 

only a few inches of clear liquid shooting across 
its forbidding surface ; or, in still other places, was 
too shallow for swimming, and yet with a bed of 
boiling quicksand where no living creature could 
walk? Such difficulties they had by no means 
lost sight of. A winding channel had been made 
through these obstructions, and this they had 
carefully kept open at all times. Nor could any 
swift-darting pickerel thread the mazes of that 
devious way with easier grace than that of the 
Indian women and girls, whose supple bodies, 
gliding through the channel, fretted the current 
less than the soft undulations of its native moss. 
The slumbers of the Httle papoose, riding safely 
in the rocking-cradle above its mother's head, 
must not be disturbed by a single drop of water 
or a dash of the thinnest spray; the outcry of a 
frightened or fretful child might be fatal to all of 
them. By " treading water '' — as we say — the body 
of the mother was kept so nearly vertical that the 
head and shoulders, with their precious burden, 
were well above the surface. Never touching a 
leaf or reed on either bank, the swimmers paused 
from time to time in the places where the water 
in mid-stream was not too deep and the footing 
firm; the little children needed a moment's rest. 

Legends of Lost Lake 119 

In this way they came swiftly and noiselessly to the 
place where the bulrushes had been cut away. 

Now, if that wall of rushes had been left intact, 
the first swimmer that passed through the thick 
mass of vegetation could do so only by leaving 
behind a tell-tale track of broken leaf -stalks. The 
first stranger that went by on the river would not 
fail to note that someone had entered there. On 
this account, the women had kept an acre of the 
rushes, or more, in part cut away. All could now 
enter the place with ease, and the stranger would 
pass by, saying to himself that here the mat-makers 
had been at work. He might push inside to see 
whether any human being was lying concealed 
behind the mound-like banks of the river. He 
might make his way around the entire circle of the 
wall of standing rushes, but he would search in 
vain for a broken leaf where woman or child had 
penetrated the living screen. Should he pass up 
to the village site, the canoes in line on the bank 
would assure him that those who had deserted 
the lodges had gone off through the forest. 

And yet these swimmers did, in fact, come to a 
particular spot along the circling wall of reeds, 
where the first one was careful to plant her foot 
in front of a certain lily-pad that floated by the side 

120 Tales of Kankakee Land 

of the rushes. The foot found a firm foundation 
just under the floor of the black mud. Standing 
erect, she parted the rushes very gently, stepped 
over the lily, and found another place of secure 
footing within the leafy wall. Stepping over an- 
other mass of thick vegetation, she turned where 
she stood to receive a child from the hands of the 
woman following her. The children could not 
be trusted to take a step among the plants that 
grew on the border, so important was it that no leaf 
should be moved or disturbed. The first woman 
advanced several paces with the child, which was 
then set down to follow in her steps. She was 
walking on a log planted firmly underneath several 
inches of mud and water, and with the surrounding 
vegetation drawn carefully over it. Other logs 
disposed in a similar manner led the way through 
the rushes to the mouth of the Barkosky. Here 
a rude platform of old tree-trunks, apparently 
stranded in the place, allowed the women and 
children to step out of the water, while one of the 
former drew a small boat from a hollow sycamore- 
log and hurried up to Lost Lake for the canoes 
hidden there and by means of which all could be 
conveyed to that safe retreat. 
It is said that originally the shores of Lost Lake 

Legends of Lost Lake 121 

were nothing more than a confused mass of tree- 
roots and dead-wood with the water lying between, 
and that the unhappy creatures imprisoned here 
by their terrible fears employed themselves in 
drawing sand from the bottom of the lake and lay- 
ing it down in one place. Thus they constructed 
a strip of beach on which they could raise their 
lodges. Indeed, the sand had been heaped up 
until there was sufficient depth for the fire-holes, 
by which the light of the blaze could be more 
easily concealed. Taking care to burn away the 
grasses outside of the tamaracks before the annual 
fires had come up the Kankakee, a dense under- 
growth among the trees had been secured. Once 
within this retreat, they were as completely lost 
to the world as though the earth had opened and 
received them. The muskrat and the beaver were 
here in large numbers, and the lake was full of fish. 
The penalty was death for man, woman, or child 
that should seek to enter or leave the Barkosky by 
daylight ; and while the enemy was in the land a 
guard was stationed on the platform at the mouth of 
the stream to enforce the stern decree. The secret 
of Lost Lake was never betrayed while the Potto- 
wattomiesheld the land ; nor was the lynx-eye of the 
savage enemy ever gratified with aught that should 

122 Tales of Kankakee Land 

supply the faintest clew to the mystery of the 
hiding-place. But on one occasion, a calamity, 
in itself sufficiently dire, barely stopped short 
of the exposure so long and so carefully guarded 

Among the winter stories told at night around 
the fire in the Pottowattomie lodges, was one that 
dwelt with very careful particulars on a certain in- 
vasion of the land by a band of Iroquois. The 
thrilling experiences thus rehearsed happened 
during a far-away summer in years so remote that 
no one pretended to say just when the event had 
occurred. It seems that the irruption of their 
dreaded foe was a peculiarly severe disaster, since 
it took place just after a large party of Pottowatto- 
mie warriors had left the village, and just before 
another had returned. With the exception of a 
few boys and old men, the homes were almost 
without protection. After prowling about the 
region for some days, the enemy had suddenly 
vanished. So, the scouts at night gave the signal 
for the retreat of the women and children. The 
message came at an unexpected moment, but it 
was none the less thankfully received and none 
the less promptly obeyed. There was a scurrying 
to and fro, and then, one by one, they ran to the 

Legends of Lost Lake 123 

landing and stepped cautiously into the water 
and sank from view in the gentle flood and thick 
darkness, without so much as a ripple in the water 
to proclaim their departure. Soon the entire 
channel was filled with this strange school of 
swimmers, the Indian women and children. 

When the foremost one had darted through the 
broken bar of bulrushes and rounded a great tuft 
of standing reeds, she was brought to a sudden 
stand, one of the long twisting masses of her hair 
having apparently caught in some projecting 
snag. She turned and reached out to disengage 
her tresses, when, to her amazement and horror, 
she found her hair and then her wrist in the firm 
grasp of a powerful hand. A war -club was held 
close to her eyes, and above was a fierce and threat- 
ening countenance motioning silence with a most 
imperative scowl. She now discovered that she had 
made her way into the midst of a fleet of canoes 
filled with Iroquois warriors, lying motionless 
there in the darkness. One by one the women 
swam into the clutches of the enemy, in every case 
silence being enforced by the threat of instant 
and certain death, while strong arms drew each 
of them aside to make room for the unsuspecting 
victim that followed next in line. Thus a blood- 

124 Tales of Kankakee Land 

less and complete victory was gained for the 
Iroquois, one of supreme interest for them, since 
it brought into their hands all the children of 
the village. Thrice happy was the warrior who 
carried home a little boy or girl; for the red man 
was passionately fond of children, and there were 
seldom more than a few of them in the lodges. 

But this easy conquest was no more of a sur- 
prise to the women than to those who had set 
the trap for them, for the latter had done so all 
unwittingly and with an entirely different purpose 
in view. They had discovered that the Potto- 
wattomie war-party, whose return the village had 
awaited in bitter anxiety, was coming up the 
Kankakee. To lie in wait for the latter and fall 
upon them from this covert in the rushes, was 
the carefully laid plan now responsible for this 
remarkable fortune of war. They had delayed 
their attack on the village for some days that they 
might determine the time when the approaching 
band would certainly arrive. They had known 
well enough that the lodges were completely at 
their mercy, but they had feared to encumber 
themselves with captives before they had en- 
countered and destroyed the warriors. 

They now found, therefore, that their very sue- 

Legends of Lost Lake 125 

cess was a new and serious embarrassment. They 
might destroy the women and children and con- 
tinue to wait for the men; or they might dash up 
the Kankakee, hurry over the path that led across 
the prairie on the north, and strike the old Sauk 
trail, the ancient highway which was their home- 
ward path. The latter course was quickly de- 
cided upon, the precious spoils offering an irresist- 
ible temptation. The canoes, loaded down to the 
water's edge, were quickly turned into the river, 
where a few strokes of the paddles speedily brought 
them to the village landing. While a part of the 
band led the captives over the path toward the 
prairie, others conveyed the canoes to a distant 
spot up the river to conceal them far off in the 

It was in the earliest light of the dawn that the 
returning Pottowattomie warriors came up the 
river, and found a little boy shivering in terror on 
the bank, just below the limits of the bulrush- wall. 
He had been the last of the line of swimmers, and 
having caught a glimpse of what was occurring, 
had continued down the stream until compelled 
to stop by the entangling moss. The boy's ready 
tongue soon disclosed to the warriors all the sad 
misfortunes of the village. If this band of tardy 

126 Tales of Kankakee Land 

braves had been a party of white men, doubtless 
nothing would have restrained them from dashing 
over the prairie to engage the Iroquois there in a 
pitched battle. But such are not the ways of the 
red man. The warriors did not even stop for a 
parley; each seemed to know as by instinct the 
only prudent thing that remained to be done. 
They hurried to the landing, and then flew along 
the Pottowattomie trail that skirts the marshes 
to the last foot of their spongy soil and then crosses 
over to the St. Joseph. There, in the place where 
the trail comes down to the river's brink, a shallow 
ford stretches to the farther bank. Once safely 
across, they sped swiftly along the path that 
held its way down stream for a few miles. It 
brought them to a defile in the hills where the old 
Sauk trail crossed the stream by another ford. 
This ancient highway was the way home for the 
Iroquois. Concealed in the dense growth on 
either side of the defile, they waited in dead silence 
the coming of the hated foe that had robbed the 
wigwams of wife and mother and sister and child. 
The story-teller in the firelight of the lodges 
never failed to dwell on this situation with all the 
possible ecstasy of Indian glee. By strange and 
peculiar modulation of tone, and by mobility of 

Legends of Lost Lake 127 

features quite as strange ; by eyes that glittered and 
flashed or buried their fires beneath a deep scowl ; 
by fearful contortions of the body or a gentle 
rocking of the frame to and fro; by hands that 
snatched and brandished furiously an imaginary 
weapon or with lifted palms moved softly up and 
down; through such a devious and significant 
pantomime they led along the thoughts of the rapt 
listeners to the critical moment when, with a per- 
fect scream of fury, the blow was struck. 

One needed to catch here and there but a word of 
the vernacular, as more by action than by speech 
the story-teller passed in review the whole chain of 
events, link by link. Now, the Iroquois were 
coming through the tall grass on the border of the 
prairie, crowded in close array and with tumul- 
tuous haste, and yet with many a nervous back- 
ward glance; and now, they hurried the women 
and children down the high bank and with impa- 
tient gesture begrudged even the moment's pause 
at the water's edge, where all made ready to stem 
the swift cold current of the St. Joseph. Now, 
they are cautiously picking their way over the 
ford, at each careful step bracing the body against 
the swirling waters; and now, the foremost ones 
are advancing on the strand of fine gravel to which 

128 Tales of Kankakee Land 

this secret way through the swift tide had led 
them. They wait for a few of their companions; 
and then, in single rank, they glide along the path 
into the defile, relieved to know that at last the 
St. Joseph lies between them and the despoiled 
village of the enemy. 

Not until the last captive is on the shore, do 
the Pottowattomie warriors leap from their covert 
with a war-cry that makes the defile seem the very 
gateway of destruction — a cry that one would 
think might wake the dead, as it runs with quick 
reverberations from bank to bank and dies a>vay 
far down the St. Joseph. The Pottowattomies 
themselves believed that the spirits of their dead 
friends would obey such a summons, and hasten 
to take their stand where they might rejoice in the 
valor of the living. The Iroquois first encoun- 
tered were quickly overcome, and the captive wom- 
en following in their train released and armed. 
The enemy all in a breath found itself in the 
possession of its own prisoners, and at such a time 
the Indian woman was the fiercest of all antag- 
onists. So swift was this tremendous reversal of 
misfortune that only the merest remnant of the 
Eastern foe escaped from the scene. Even those 
of the rear-guard still in the water were in many 

Legends of Lost Lake 129 

instances unable to make good their escape. 
They cast themselves into the powerful arms of 
the current, but a bloody stain marked their course 
for an instant, and then many a lifeless form, 
pierced by an arrow or struck by a spear, whirled 
round and round in the dark pools below. Nor 
did the story-teller ever fail to rehearse at least 
a few of the savage shouts of exultation that went 
up from the lips of man, woman, and child, as 
they held their homeward way through the tall 
grass and out on to the bright prairie and down to 
the village by the Kankakee. 

It is said that in more modern days Lost Lake 
was the home of a trapper, and that in still later 
times it was seized for the operations of a band of 
counterfeiters. There can be no doubt that it 
was well known to many people of criminal in- 
stincts, and that their nefarious plans sometimes 
led them into its secret shades. But long after 
the red man had ceased to trust in it as an asylum, 
the place once proved a safe retreat for the perse- 
cuted both of his own race and those of another. 
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the 
war-parties of the Pottowattomies were still in- 
vading the lands of their hereditary foes in the 
far South, and by way of reprisal those from the 

130 Tales of Kankakee Land 

far South came hither and were sometimes en- 
countered on the outskirts of the Pottowattomie 
villages. In those days a Southern band once 
succeeded in carrying away to their homes a num- 
ber of women from this encampment near the 
mouth of the Barkosky, the famous outlet of 
Lost Lake. Many years thereafter one of these 
women — only one — found her way back to the 
scenes of her youth. 

A maiden when led off by her captors, she was 
given in marriage to a negro who was a voluntary 
exile among the Indians, a fugitive from a Ten- 
nessee plantation. She became the mother of 
three sons. When these were nearly grown, she 
prepared to set out for the home of her childhood, 
supposing that the Choctaws — whose prisoner 
she was — would not seriously oppose her plans, 
seeing that their espionage of her and her ways had 
long since entirely ceased. Yet she preferred that 
her going should be unannounced, and so slipped 
away stealthily with her entire family. But the 
woman and her family failed to understand that 
the Choctaw was not yet ready to forget the past. 
They were pursued, overtaken, and brought back. 
Their going was looked upon as a serious offence 
to the tribe in which the father had found a secure 

Legends of Lost Lake 131 

refuge, and the mother and her offspring had been 
treated with kindness. The old men in council 
finally decreed that the family should be punished 
in a manner that should forever be a warning to 
both the captive and the fugitive. Since these 
people had wished to be away, they should go 
forthwith. Their departure, however, should not 
be for the old home in the far North, but for the 
plantation in Tennessee from which the father 
had once escaped. Thus the family were con- 
ducted to the slave-owner, who by the laws of that 
State could claim them as his property. The 
tobacco-fields of Tennessee must be the abiding- 
place of those who had presumed to set their 
hearts on the cool woodlands that skirted our 
Kankakee. How the years of toil wore away we 
are not informed. It is only known that the hope 
once kindled in the heart of the Pottowattomie 
woman still survived and, finally, on the glad 
day of her life, nerved her to attempt the delivery 
of herself, her husband, their sons, and the wives 
and families of the sons. 

Her plans this time were laid in wisdom, and 
they were carried out with such consummate skill 
that the prompt pursuers in all the journey across 
most of the width of two States and through 

132 Tales of Kankakee Land 

the length of another were baffled at every turn 
by the wood-craft and the sleepless energy of the 
Indian woman. As the fugitives approached 
our town, they were taken in hand by those who 
in that day were accustomed to assist the runaway 
slave. A dark room in the rear of a barber-shop 
was their hiding-place for a day. The shop itself 
was a small building, one of an L-shaped mass 
of low structures that cornered at the intersection 
of the two important streets of the town. In 
their rear was an open space with the remains of a 
scattering grove that in other days had often wit- 
nessed stirring scenes. One of these low struct- 
ures was a commodious log building which had 
been in those other days the trading-post for the 
agent of the American Fur Company. In the 
grove at the rear of his storehouse and dwelling, 
hundreds of Indians often set up their lodges for 
a prolonged visit, which might or might not end 
in the exchange of their Kankakee furs for such 
commodities and on such terms as the trader 
should be able to offer. Although these affairs 
had long been consigned to the oblivion of remote 
history, yet traces of the old conditions were still 
to be observed from time to time. Two or three 
half-breeds with their squaws and children would 

Legends of Lost Lake 133 

tie their ponies to the few remaining trees during 
the fine days of late spring and proceed to spread 
out their stores of muskrat skins. Such a sight 
would sometimes stir the memory of one of the 
old inhabitants, and the gossipy group about him 
would listen to incidents of the days when the Pot- 
towattomies were still playing an important part 
in the life of the region. 

Whether by preconcerted arrangement or 
through the merest chance, a line of these Indian 
ponies had filed into the space at the rear of the 
buildings in the early morning, and scarcely an 
hour after, the fugitives from Tennessee had been 
safely stowed away in the barber-shop. No one 
saw the Pottowattomie woman who was the leader 
of the runaways clamber to the top of the high 
board fence at the rear of the barber-shop ; or even 
peer through its crevices for a conference with her 
fellow- tribesmen; nor was she seen with them at 
any other time or place. It is true that these 
Indians went away without offering their furs 
for sale, but anyone acquainted with the pecul- 
iar traits of the red man would think litde of 
such conduct on the part of those whose race 
never hurries in a matter of business. At mid- 
night three wagons came to the rear of the barber- 

134 Tales of Kankakee Land 

shop. A section of the fence, so constructed that 
it could be Hfted from its bearings, furnished a 
secret gateway; and one of the men, stooping down 
to the threshold, tapped out gently thereon a 
series of signals, as previously agreed upon. 

There was no response. The front entrance 
was tried with similar result, although the signal 
was repeated several times. Then the rear door 
was forced open, only to show that the cage was 
empty; the birds had flown. In such a manner 
the nervous trepidation of the runaway slave 
sometimes balked and perplexed those who were 
striving to help him ; but often, as in this case, the 
peculiar instinct of the hunted served him well. 
For the men from the wagons were scarcely done 
with their expressions of astonishment ere a pair 
of blood-hounds, growling as they crouched over 
the doorstep, sniffed their way through the narrow 
hall and into the very apartment where the fugi- 
tives had lain concealed through the day. Men on 
horseback were the next moment leaping down 
and securing their steeds to the fence. In vain 
those from the wagons, confronted by the agents 
of the slave-owner, protested their ignorance of 
the whereabouts of the runaways. High words 
followed after the premises had been ransacked 

Legends of Lost Lake 135 

and the hounds had taken up their stand by the 
side of the fence from whose summit the fugitives 
had apparently spread wing for parts unknown. 

A crowd of towns-people soon gathered at the 
place, and the pursuing party quickly learned 
that the men from the wagon were prominent 
citizens. The latter were placed under arrest and 
the pursuit given over at this point. The Ten- 
nessee people preferred to look to the courts for 
a bill of damages against those giving aid and 
comfort to these fleeing human beings, who in the 
eyes of the law should have kept their places with 
the other unfortunate bondsmen of the Southern 

It was the general belief in our community that 
those who escaped from the barber-shop on that 
eventful night had fled to the North, across the 
State line; and, having buried themselves in the 
deep recesses of the Michigan woods, had pressed 
on to Canada in safety. Before their day, and after, 
a vast number found freedom along such a path. 
But in truth, as Doctor Sandy could explain, the 
band, led by the Pottowattomie woman, never 
left our vicinity, and some of their descendants 
are even yet at hand and still preserve faithful tra- 
ditions of the strange deliverance of their ances- 

136 Tales of Kankakee Land 

tors on that night in the long ago. These accounts 
agree, too, with the story which Doctor Sandy 
had to tell, but which for many years he guarded 
as a grave secret and, in fact, never spoke of, 
except in the most guarded manner. According 
to his narrative, it was a line of Indian ponies that 
filed up to the fence in the rear of the barber-shop 
and bore away the fugitives, striking at once into 
the trail that led off to the Pottowattomie village, 
from which one of their number, when a maiden, 
had been carried away as a Choctaw captive. 

Nothing more than a pitiful remnant of the once 
populous village still survived. The friends and 
relatives of the Indian woman had been deported 
long since to points in the far West. But there 
was one aged crone who held a torch close to the 
face of the returned captive and was able to recall 
the past and find in those worn features the face 
of the girl that once had disappeared, when the 
enemies of their people were raiding the land. It 
must have been a sad fruition of the long-delayed 
hope and all but desperate struggles of the woman 
whose devotion and heroism had finally led back 
her numerous brood to this spot, once the fair 
land of her fathers. 

But on this night there could have been but 

Legends of Lost Lake 137 

little opportunity for mournful recollections, since 
the ponies were allowed to pause only for a brief 
moment before the lodges. Nor was any rider 
permitted to touch foot to the ground. They 
pushed ahead down to the old landing, and rode 
their steeds out into the shallow water, and then 
descended into canoes that were in waiting there. 
They were soon gliding down the Kankakee to the 
wall of bulrushes at the mouth of the Barkosky. 
Their destination was that ancient asylum of the 
Pottowattomies, Lost Lake. Here they remained 
for weeks and months, assiduously cultivating 
every species of disguise by which in the future 
they might come to be known as children of the 
red race. It was not difficult to compass such 
an end in the case of the sons of the woman. 

It is known, in fact, that after a while they some- 
times appeared in the streets of our town and were 
passed off by their Pottowattomie friends as a part 
of a visiting band of Indians from the West. Tricked 
out in moccasins, fringed leggings, blankets, and 
the red man's headgear of eagle feathers, or the 
one made from the thick bristling coat on the neck 
of an elk, they bore themselves with all the native 
dignity of the ancient lords of the soil. Proud 
and serene, they surveyed the field where only a 

138 Tales of Kankakee Land 

few weeks before they had been ready to sink 
down with terror and fatigue, and as runaway 
slaves had been forced to skulk and hide from the 
subtle enemy that had long followed close on their 
heels with manacles and the lash. And when 
those who had been caught in the attempt to aid 
and abet the cause of these unfortunates were 
finally brought to trial, there appeared one day 
among the excited crowd in the court a group of 
Indians, among whom were these sons of the 
Pottowattomie woman. Their presence even 
drew the attention of the counsel for the prose- 
cution, one of the lawyers contrasting the native 
manliness of their free bearing with the cringing 
cowardice of the African, a human being marked, 
as it were, by Heaven for the low estate of the slave. 

The trial went against the accused and stripped 
them of all their possessions. They had strong 
friends in our household, and of all the tales re- 
hearsed at our fireside, the saddest was the story 
of their losses. 

Those interested in the archaeology of the Kan- 
kakee have recently discovered that there was a 
rich mine for them in the long mound, or mole, 
of sand constructed by the Indian women on the 
shore-line of Lost Lake — the spot where they were 

Legends of Lost Lake 139 

wont to raise their lodges and build their fires. 
The place seems to be stuck full of those relics 
that reflect so vividly the peculiar conditions of 
that remote life in the dim past — a fragment of a 
broken bone fish-spear, or an iron one from the fur- 
trader's stores; weapons of stone and ornaments of 
slate and shell; a sprinkling of wampum beads and 
thousands of glass ones of all colors and shades; 
the shining tusks of the black bear and his cruel 
claws; stone arrow-points and those from sheet 
iron and hammered copper; long smooth pestles 
for grinding wild rice, corn, acorns and lily- roots; 
pipes of red catlinite, and steel dagger-blades. 

Only the other day two of us visited the spot. 
Someone had been digging in the sand and 
sifting it with care. A sheet of paper weighted 
down with a stone held the recovered treasures: 
a few gun-flints, a handful of beads, and a broken 
dagger-blade. Their owner was out in the middle 
of the lake, leaning over the side of a tilting canoe, 
where he had dropped a long line down to the 
margin of the great hole left by the mighty foot of 
the ancient glacier. The slanting rays of the sun 
were lighting up the glowing bronze of his cheek 
with a ruddier tinge. But, heedless of the finny 
tribe toying with his hook, he fixed his steady, 

140 Tales of Kankakee Land 

patient, black eyes on us, not a little disturbed 
at our intrusion on the precincts sacred to the 
memory of the Pottowattomies. Drawing in his 
line and seizing the paddle without once turning 
his gaze from our direction, he was soon making 
swift progress toward our shore. We knew him 
well, Malachi Sarka Brown, a young man of 
muscle and sinew, of powerful yet clear-cut mould, 
with the profile of the red American and something 
of his hue, one who in fact styled himself a Potto- 
wattomie. In the court record Malachi Brown 
is designated as one of the runaway slaves to 
whom our citizens lent aid and paid so dearly 
for the privilege. And Doctor Sandy says that 
Sarka was the maiden name of the Pottowattomie 
woman, the fond mother who so eagerly braved 
a thousand perils that she might lead back her 
dear ones to the secure retreat of this ancient 
asylum of her people, and to the free airs of the 
wooded isles, the sunlit shores, and all the fair 
plain of the Kankakee. 



Lying between the forks of the Kankakee, and 
sweeping across to the banks of the St. Joseph, and 
then holding its way down the course of the latter 
stream for a distance of several leagues, a sunlit 
prairie unfolds its fair charms to the blue sky. 
Its metes and bounds encompass less than fifty 
square miles. For what it lacks in area there 
was once full compensation in its pristine glories 
that included not a few of the exquisite touches 
of nature's hand. Its original outline was much 
like that of the human foot, and at the toe was 
located the village of the Pottowattomies, hard by 
the mouth of the Barkosky. From this village 
a path meandered through patches of hazel 
bushes, dog- wood, and redbud, and then crept 
over the turf where a brotherhood of aged oaks 
lifted their ponderous arms and touched hands 
against the sky. Beyond, the path held to the 
border of several tiny meadows, slipping over the 


142 Tales of Kankakee Land 

low hills that divided them one from the other, 
and then mounted by easy gradations up on to the 
warm bosom of the bright prairie. The prairie 
was a network of such paths, some of them a mere 
thread among the tall grasses, while others were a 
yard or more in width. These broad furrows, 
as venerable as the plains they traversed, had 
been worn deep in the soil by trampling hosts, 
those ancient tribes of men that once knew the 
charms and the terrors of this wilderness. 

The band of white men that first invaded this 
fair solitude, the illustrious La Salle and his com- 
panions, found one of these deep paths that ran 
over the prairie from side to side. In 1679 they 
followed its course from the banks of the St. 
Joseph straight across to a series of pools, the very 
tip and source of one of the forks of the Kankakee. 
It was the famous portage path from which the 
plain has ever been known to our race as Portage 
Prairie. A thousand years, two thousand years, 
or more, had sunk deep in the soft, rich earth 
this famous trail that came up from the basin of 
the Great Lakes, and in the brief span of a league 
and a half passed down into lands tributary to 
the Mississippi. It is well remembered how aged 
pioneers of this region were accustomed to declare 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 143 

that in their boyhood, when riding a horse over 
this old highway, they were on the lookout not to 
strike their feet against the turf on either side. 
Thus, deep in the prairie-soil, many races through 
many ages had set the seal of their presence on 
this plain. The aboriginal American was a great 
traveller, and the wayfarer of ancient days might 
well have remembered the tranquil beauty of the 
scene that met his gaze, as he peered over the 
wall of turf and swaying grasses on the one side 
of this path, or the hedge-row of wild roses on the 

The plain was not a smooth expanse of waving 
grasses, but one gently rolling. Here and there a 
knoll, or hillock, rose abruptly — a few square rods 
of elevated ground — the work of the elements in 
some capricious mood during glacial times. Such 
a spot was one on which a buffalo might stand and 
lord it over his fellows, or a panther or wolf steal 
up to eye the distant herd and lay his plans. 

And there were sudden depressions where for a 
half acre the bottom seemed to have dropped out 
of the prairie and let down the surface thirty or 
forty feet, such a place always showing a pool 
of living waters at its centre with encircling flags 
and water-grasses. But the beauty-spots of the 

144 Tales of Kankakee Land 

prairie were the little tufts of woodland, as Father 
Charlevoix called them when he passed over the 
portage path in 1720. The forest clumps dotting 
the great field bestowed on the scene a peculiar 
and impressive charm. They might consist of fif- 
teen or twenty enormous white oaks, or a like colony 
of black ones, or three of these trees might stand 
together, or a solitary burr-oak might crown a tiny 
hillock. Such a lone sentinel would be found 
stoutly braced against the storm, from whatever 
point of the compass the latter might descend; 
and the outermost branches often hung low, even 
to the grass-tops. But, in general, these tiny 
forest areas scarcely obstructed the vision, for the 
individual trees stood apart, with their branches 
lifted high, and only occasionally was there any 
undergrowth. A chance depression within the 
area of these oaks sometimes sustained a plum- 
thicket overgrown with vines, and in such places 
were the lairs of the wild beasts of the plain — 
the panther, the wolf, the black bear. 

Many of these ^'little tufts of woodland" still 
survive, and happily, too ; for they were in the old 
days, and still continue to be, the most striking 
feature of the region. They became the door- 
yards of the first settlers, and several generations 

Along the Sau-wausee-be 145 

of children have filled hats and aprons with blue 
violets, May-apple blossoms, wood anemones, 
and Jack-in-the-pulpits where the she-bear had 
rollicked with her cubs, and the kittens of the 
panther had tried their young claws on the bark 
of the plum and the wild crab tree. 

It was in one of these tiny groves of a few great 
trees, where the shade was ever full of light and 
warmth, that some children were once at play. 
They were smoothing off a little plat of the soft 
turf to lay out with sticks and stones the apart- 
ments of a doll's house, when they met an ob- 
struction not so easily dislodged. It was a small 
rough slab of limestone such as one sometimes 
finds about the water-holes on the prairie. It had 
once stood on edge but now was lying prone, 
buried in the turf, except for a jagged edge and 
corner. The children worked the flat stone loose 
from the grass-roots and soil, when, lo ! there were 
found on its face the rude letters of a strange in- 
scription cut deep and with a care that quite made 
up for the plain lack of skill. Beneath a cross 
were the words: 

Heloise Femme de Adrian Robert 


Toulouse Languedoc 

146 Tales of Kankakee Land 

Men dug in the place and found a grave with 
the crumbling remains of a woman, as they had 
expected. The hands had been decently disposed 
on the breast with the fingers clasping a crucifix. 
Nothing further of interest was found, except a 
finger-ring and a few beads. Who was Heloise, 
the wife of Adrian Robert? Why had she come 
here in 1 718 to die in this lonely, though beautiful, 
wilderness, so remote from the happy home in 
France — the fond friends in fair Languedoc? 
Had she, perchance, crossed the sea as a bride 
to find a place in the life of the rude hamlets on 
the St. Lawrence? Were the rigors of the first 
Canadian winter more than the delicate frame 
could support; and was she, when death overtook 
her, seeking a new lease of life in the balmy airs 
of some fragrant grove in the far-away Southland ? 
Was the new home to rise on the pleasant shores of 
one of those peaceful bayous where the great river 
draws nigh to the sea? Strange and sorrowful 
fate, to have fallen here on the very line dividing 
the vast domain of New France on the north from 
the vaster and more hospitable realm in the valley 
of the Mississippi! 

Only a few miles away on the St. Joseph dwelt 
a considerable colony of French traders; but at 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 147 

this period they were fierce, lawless spirits, whose 
unrestrained license had disheartened the Jesuit 
missionaries and for the time being driven them 
from the scene. The spot dedicated to the cause 
of the church and made safe as a dwelling-place 
for the white man, deprived of the pious minis- 
trations of the clergy, was now given over to 
violence and crime. It is not, then, a matter of 
surprise that the travellers should have withdrawn 
from the presence of these desperate men to seek 
a sanctuary in the solitude of the prairie, where 
the weary one might die in sweet peace and be at 
rest with the flowers, the birds, the pleasant leaf- 
shade, the blue sky by day, and by night the watch- 
ful stars. And what an awful anguish must that 
have been that wrung the heart of Adrian Robert, 
as he worked out the inscription and set up the 
feeble memorial where Heloise had left his side 
in these remote depths of the boundless wilderness! 
There is no more bitter moment than the one in 
which we turn from the resting-place of the be- 
loved dead and force our feet to find again the 
paths of common life. But to turn from that 
lonely grave on the prairie and stumble forward 
on such a journey must have shaken the soul 
of Adrian Robert with a stress of grief that could 

148 Tales of Kankakee Land 

have declared itself in none of the languages of 
men. And whether his wanderings carried him 
far away on the southern rivers or back to the 
cold Canadian wilds, what surging emotions must 
have swept over his soul as he thought of the 
voices of this wilderness ever chanting the requiem 
of his dead! In moments of sorrowful musing, 
down to his latest hour, his eyes must have been 
fixed on the fair vision of this sunny plain. The 
mighty oaks, so grandly calm — standing still while 
the very centuries went by; the quiet paths where 
the silent red men strode forth, or the wary step of 
the soft- footed fox found a way; the smooth sea 
of swinging grass-tops furrowed by the whirring 
wings of the prairie-hen; the earth trembling 
beneath the tread of trampling herds; the storm- 
clouds rolling in from the wide, watery wastes of 
the Kankakee; the splendor of the fires in the 
sunset sky; the dreamy spell that holds the scene 
when the moonbeams slanting from the tree-tops 
have spread over the prairie the enchantments 
of spectreland — conditions like these remembrance 
must have supplied as the earthly realities among 
which the spirit of Heloise had taken its final 
stand spread its pinions and fled away with the 
parting whispers of love. 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 149 

But this lonely resting-place is, in truth, only 
one of many such; for, a line of them — sweeping 
all the way from Quebec around the lakes and 
down the great rivers to the gulf — furnishes silent 
witnesses of the memorable, and often pitiful, 
struggle of Gallic life in America. Sometimes 
it is a cedar cross that marks the spot where the 
dead are sleeping; sometimes it is only a great 
bowlder; and sometimes they did as the Indians 
were wont to do — planted a cedar- tree above the 
grave that it might spread its warm palms over 
the soil, and in its red heart hold forever the 
memory of the departed. 

The path that led up from the Pottowattomie 
village on the Kankakee passed within a stone's 
throw of the grove that shaded the tomb of Heloise, 
as Doctor Sandy remembered well. Indeed, his 
testimony is still corroborated by a few yards of the 
original depression that even yet survive, showing 
where it crossed such of those fence-rows as from 
the beginning have never been changed. And 
one may easily find the place where the path 
approached the banks of the St. Joseph. Sumach 
and the elderberry bend above it, as doubtless they 
did in the old days, and the cool turf has spread a 
decent screen over the ancient footsteps. But noth- 

150 Tales of Karikdkee Land 

ing else invades the place, except here and there a 
solitary flower from the border of violets reaching 
down from the brink. And, truly, the region into 
which the path here descends has an enchantment 
which is all its own. The French were accus- 
tomed to call the slopes and the lowlands along 
the St. Joseph the Parkovash (Fr., Pare aux 
V aches) J or cow-pastures, because the buffalo-cows 
led their calves into these places when the sum- 
mer's heat was on the prairie. The Parkovash 
yet retains many of its historic charms. The 
huge white sycamores still rise from the water's 
edge and look across a slender strip of wet meadow 
to a fringe of willows and blackthorns. On the 
higher ground above are the tenderest of green 
grasses spreading through an open walnut-grove 
or running from the shades that lie around the mas- 
sive trunk of one giant oak to those of another fifty 
yards away. In the primitive days the strange 
and beautiful pattern of leaf-shade and sunshine 
held all the slope to the distant glacial hills whose 
low, rounded tops encompass the upland prairie. 
The Parkovash was peculiarly the home of the 
French habitant. The landing-place by the river, 
the cool spring in the bank, the path to the dwell- 
ing, the old fireplace, and the garden-plat are yet to 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 151 

be discerned at frequent intervals through the en- 
tire length of the region and still exhibit faithfully 
the conditions of life in the wilderness abode. 
The natural charm of these conditions was often 
lost, it is true, in the sudden alarms, the extreme 
perils, that any moment might bring. But years 
of hardship and danger had inured the French 
adventurer to unusual trials; and thus he might 
bear with fortitude, and even indifference, the 
threatenings of misfortune, while he was allowed 
the freedom from all restraint, together with the 
fascinating allurements of wild nature and the 
abundant creature-comforts in this ideal solitude 
on the banks of the St. Joseph. 

Well might he rejoice in the beauties and com- 
forts of such a land. The rich soil promised an 
abundant return from the garden-beds, the vine- 
yard on the hillside, and the apple-tree that leaned 
over the roof. The fringe of wild rice that every- 
where followed the banks of the St. Joseph was free 
to the harvester. Fish swarmed in the river and 
myriad flocks of wild-fowl floated on its bosom. 
When the morning mists began to lift, an elk herd 
was seen on the opposite bank, or a number of deer 
with their fawns. When the sun was hot on the 
prairie the '* great wild oxen" filed over the bluff to 

152 Tales of Kankakee Land 

stand in the shade or nip the fragrant herbage along 
the sweet waters of the meadow springs. When even- 
ing came, thousands and hundreds of thousands 
of wild pigeons approached certain points of the 
Parkovash so that the sound of their coming was 
like the roar of a tempest, and where they settled 
on the forest even the mightiest trees sometimes 
sank down with the weight of the feathered host. 

The red man, too, was under the spell of the 
Parkovash, for many of his favorite haunts were 
here. The historic record points out a wide bench 
of land everywhere roofed over with a magnificent 
canopy of spreading boughs as the rendezvous of 
all the Pottowattomies in the moon of Wild Geese. 
They met here for the feast of ripe corn and to 
apportion the land for the winter hunt. Up and 
down the river many council-grounds are still 
remembered. Such a place was the ample ex- 
panse of smooth turf hard by the Sauk trail ford. 
It was here that Black Hawk addressed the assem- 
bled chiefs of the Pottowattomies, imploring them 
to make his cause their own. Would the Potto- 
wattomies stand with him in a last bitter struggle 
against the encroachments of the white man? It 
seemed that they would consent to do such a 
thing, when the head chief, Pokagon — from 

Along the Sau-waU'See-ie 153 

whom their plans had been concealed, but who 
now had been secretly apprised of what was going 
forward — suddenly appeared in their midst. Un- 
derstanding the wicked purpose that was in their 
hearts, he denounced it in measured, though un- 
sparing, terms, warning his people that it was 
madness to entertain for a moment any thought of 
war. Turning to the wavering chiefs that had 
favored an appeal to arms, he so overpowered 
them with contemptuous ridicule and scorn that 
they cast their eyes to the ground and then covered 
their faces with their robes. Finally, as his re- 
proaches grew more and more severe, they leaped 
to their feet, turned their backs to the speaker 
and then fled through the forest and disappeared 
over the hills. The words of the good and wise 
Pokagon had prevailed; once more there was 
peace in the heart of the Pottowattomie, and Black 
Hawk went his way. 

The view of the river from the spot where the 
cool turf of the council-ground spread its soft 
carpet in the old days is one to impress the beholder. 
Breaking forth from between the hills far to the 
right, the flood, broad and deep, swings forward 
swiftly, velvet shadows bordering the shining path 
of its course. Advancing proudly to the ford, it 

154 Tales of Kankakee Land 

ripples by, checks its eager going in a wide bay, 
and rounds off among the hills on the left, its 
course a line of beauty whose charm is not easily 
defined, but, once known, is never forgotten. All 
the rivers that drain the great glacial hills of 
northern Indiana and southern Michigan are in 
many particulars quite different in type from the 
muddy, sluggish streams of lower latitudes. 

But of the water -courses in this region the St. 
Joseph is the one that most strikingly unites those 
features characteristic of them all, with a few noble 
traits peculiar to itself. Until the very hottest days 
of midsummer its sparkling waters are always cold, 
because its currents are fed not only by the drainage 
of upland and prairie but chiefly by innumerable 
springs that bubble from the clay beds underlying 
the bluffs along the shore. The channel is cut deep 
into the vast strata of sand and gravel left by the Ice 
Age, deeper and deeper as the flood draws nearer 
and nearer to the great fresh-water sea. There- 
fore, the waters ever run swiftly with dimpled 
eddy and sparkling swirl, pausing only for a touch- 
and-go at every pebbly beach or where some bold 
promontory has planted a foot on the shore. In 
those first days what pictures of leafy branch, blue 
sky, and whistling wings were mirrored here 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 155 

beneath these headlands! It was a sight to move a 
poet's soul, here where gigantic forest-trees leaning 
from the hillside or bending down from its summit 
flung the shadows of their great arms far across 
the ford, or spread a denser gloom on some deep, 
dark pool where the hesitating current circled 
softly round ere it sped away. 

The Pottowattomies called the river the Sau- 
wau-see-be, a name softened down from Sauk- 
wauk-sil-buck. The title had a singular origin, 
for it refers to the death of two Indian women 
who were drowned in the stream. It was an 
unheard-of thing that an Indian woman should 
be drowned, so expert were they as swimmers. 
But that two should perish at the same time 
seemed astonishing, if not a prodigy. And when 
it was known that these women were sisters and 
the sisters twins, the old men shook their heads 
and thought it plain that the Spirit of the 
River had done this thing, that he had taken these 
women to himself. It was believed that the Spirit 
of the River — the tutelary divinity presiding over 
the affairs of the stream — ever looked longingly 
on the soft bodies of the children, the stout limbs 
of the young men, and the fair forms of the women. 
The legend further declared that since that time 

156 Tales of Kankakee Land 

the Spirit of the River had demanded an annual 
sacrifice of two victims, a cruel tribute whose 
payment not even our race has been able to evade. 
Doubtless a frequent cause of death for the weary 
swimmer is to be found in the very cold waters 
of certain springs gushing forth here and there 
in the river's bed. 

On some of the headlands the aged monarchs 
of the ancient forest still survive, and even in their 
picturesque decay turn the thoughts most forcibly 
to the primeval glories of the Parkovash. For 
years the dead top of one of these great trees was 
the favorite haunt of an old osprey. Over the 
quiet waters of a tiny cove at the base of the bluff 
a friendly beach had spread a low-hanging tent- 
cover of living green, a Safe retreat for a boat when 
the river grew black under the threatenings of an ap- 
proaching storm. None who have taken refuge here 
could forget the great bird. When the storm came 
rumbling across the prairie, or rolling up the chan- 
nel of the St. Joseph, the old fish-eagle never failed 
to swing in with the first fierce gale that blew, and 
striking the perch, to wheel about, ruffie up his 
proud crest, slant his half-spread pinions, and 
scream defiance to the blast. An echo of the past 
is this wild cry of the osprey, an echo of the furious 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 157 

struggle with which through dim, unnumbered 
ages here in the valley of the St. Joseph bird and 
beast and man have fought through the span 
of life, exulting to surmount an adverse fate, or 
perishing at last beneath the stroke which their 
hot hearts had oft defied. 

The islands, too, that fret the currents of the 
river, what secrets are hidden away in the seclu- 
sion of their silent shades ? As you draw back the 
dense growth to peer into the mysteries of one of 
these miniature solitudes, a sudden flutter and 
whir of wings may set your nerves a-tingling — the 
swift wings of a woodcock-hen and her bevy of 
fledglings. Or, in such a place you may come 
upon a long -forgotten grave. There was a time 
when it was easy to find, now and then, these lone 
islands where a cedar cross lifted its eloquent arms 
to claim the spot as one sacred to the dead. But 
to-day even these mute witnesses have dropped 
into the current and glided away, just as every- 
where the sea of oblivion engulfs at last even the 
more imposing memorials of mortal man. 

From the sheltered cove beneath the fish-eagle's 
tree the journey by the gliding current is a short 
one to a locality once well known in Quebec and 
New Orleans and the Palace of the Tuileries. 

158 Tales of Kankakee Land 

Even before the white man's day — long, long 
before — the place had been a populous centre 
for those who dwelt in these enchanted wilds, 
since an Indian town occupied the favorable site 
on the left bank of the river. The town was there 
when La Salle invaded the region, and doubtless 
the spot had been held by many races through 
many ages past ; for this part of the stream was one 
of the famous fishing-grounds. Here at a place 
where the waters were shallow, the aborigines had 
paved a strip of the river's bed from shore to shore 
with great slabs of limestone. Just who they 
were that labored at this task, or when they toiled, 
no one will ever know. These slabs of limestone 
are a characteristic of the surrounding glacial 
hills, having been dropped here and there by 
some iceberg, parts of the monstrous booty which 
the Frost King had stolen from rich quarries far 
to the north. The purpose of dragging these 
huge, flat stones into the river and disposing them 
so as to form a paved path through the waters 
was an important one, since thereby the people 
might more easily take the great fish with which 
the river at certain seasons was fairly alive. 

The canoes were a-ccustomed to go up stream 
some miles, and then, descending in an open line 



%4 '■" ' 

r. '^r 

Stood with uplifted spei 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 159 

that reached from bank to bank, so agitated the 
waters as to drive before them the finny game. 
Companions, who in the'meantime had taken their 
stations at frequent intervals across the hmestone 
floor, stood with uplifted spears awaiting the 
moment when the form of the rolling sturgeon or 
the catfish or the swift pickerel or the quick- 
darting pike should be outlined against the under- 
lying pavement. Those who sometimes witnessed 
these operations have left the record that when 
the spearmen were at work, the boats went fre- 
quently to the shore, and were often weighted 
down to the water's edge with the burden of fishes. 
It was nothing strange, therefore, that just above 
this renowned fishing-place a great Indian village 
should have survived from remote times down 
to a period within the memory of men now living. 
It is well known that the first French fort in all 
the region west of Niagara Falls stood on the bluff 
at the mouth of the St. Joseph. And many 
believe that La Salle, attracted by the unfailing 
food supply at this fishing-place, and by the oppor- 
tunities for traffic in the Indian town, built his 
second fort at this point, some fifty miles from the 
mouth of the river and fourteen, or fifteen, miles 
below the portage to the Kankakee. Or, it may 

160 Tales of Kankakee Land 

be true, as others suppose, that the fort followed 
a mission which Father Allouez is known to have 
established here, in 1694. But whatever its 
origin, it is one of the historical verities that in the 
field just opposite the Indian town stood old Fort 
St. Joseph, the stronghold of the French, their 
secure asylum for nearly a hundred years in a wide 
and bloody wilderness. On the higher ground 
beyond its walls rose the virgin forest; in front, 
circling around a curving shore, rolled the bright 
waters of the St. Joseph. 

The fishing pavement of the aborigines has 
fared better than the work of the white man, since 
much of the former is plainly visible, while it is 
difficult to find a single vestige of the old fort. 
Doctor Sandy and, likewise, many of the early 
settlers were wont to assert that the burnt stumps 
of a part of the palisades were to be seen as late 
as 1840. But, to-day, little may be affirmed con- 
cerning the spot where the block-house rose, the 
lines along which the sentries paced, and even the 
location of the single entrance where the ponderous 
gate, heavy with spikes and bars, held fast against 
the foe but swung wide for those who came in 
peace. Yet, in this place even a tame fancy must 
supply itself with conjectures that are both pleas- 

Alo7ig the Sau-waU'See-he 161 

ing and pknsible. For throughout the entire 
area within aid around the fort one can hardly 
find a spadefu^ of earth that does not contain 
some reminder cf that life now so remote and so 
utterly extinguish i. It may be only a glass bead 
with surface paled from the slow oxidation of long 
exposure; or it may be a piece of wampum, the 
Indian's tiny cylinder wrought from some pearly 
shell; or it may be the lost member of a rosary 
string, worn smooth by the affectionate touch of 
pious fingers that long ago ceased to express the 
heart's emotion or obey the will's behest. 

Hand- wrought nails are common, and occasion- 
ally one may find a long slender awl. There are 
many gun-flints and some bullets, buttons of 
brass or pewter, finger- rings of bronze or silver, 
buckles, earrings, little hawk-bells and small pieces 
of sheet-metal twisted into slender cones for a 
tinkling fringe on the sleeves — curious and sug- 
gestive objects that one picks out of the diggings, 
this spadeful or that. At intervals — always too 
long — one comes upon a large, highly ornamented 
bead or a broken pipe-bowl of red catlinite, or a 
lead seal. 

These seals are extremely interesting. The 
traders brought over from France and England 

162 Tales of Kankakee Lard 

large quantities of expensive cloths To prevent 
anyone from cutting off a few y^rds while the 
goods were in transit, it was custo nary to pull out 
the inside end of the bolt and catch it up with 
the outside end. A hole through the two parts 
then received a piece of soft lead which when set in 
a die was pressed fiat on the cloth; while at the 
same time the maker's trade-mark or name or 
place of business, together with numbers and 
dates and peculiar fanciful designs, were stamped 
on the surfaces of the soft metal. The lead was 
indeed so soft that often the imprint of the two 
layers of cloth between the heads of the seal may 
be easily distinguished on the latter. Crucifixes 
have been found. Parts of guns are seen frequent- 
ly; so, also, are tomahawks and broken knives. 

And in this place the spade discloses, from time 
to time, the osteological remains of every species 
of animal whose cries were once heard in this 
wilderness, cries that sounded the whole gamut 
from the trumpet-call of the whooping crane or 
the bellowing of a buffalo bull to the appalling 
voice of the screaming panther, whose accents 
sometimes rent the midnight air, hushing into 
silence every other tongue. 

The mission had been named St. Joseph after 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 163 

Father Allouez's patron saint. The fort naturally 
assumed the name of the mission, and the river 
also inherited the same title. Fort St. Joseph 
doubtless bore a close resemblance to all these 
wilderness strongholds, which consisted, in gen- 
eral, of a commodious block-house built of logs, 
and sometimes of stone, with a widely encircling 
ridge of earth surmounted by palisades. The 
fence was no light affair. Its heavy posts stood 
high and in close contact, and were sunk deep in 
the earth, while their tops were sharply pointed. 
Sometimes there were two rows and even three 
rows of posts, those in the second row covering 
the spaces between those of the first. Scattered 
about within the enclosure were many small dwell- 
ings where the soldiers lived with their families. 
The professional trader settled among them, and 
the soldiers themselves were encouraged to engage 
in the fur traffic. As the peaceful years succeeded 
each other, the white men — especially those having 
Indian wives — were emboldened to build for 
themselves more commodious abodes outside the 
ramparts; and, finally, to push out into the inviting 
spots up and down the Parkovash. 

The Frenchman was far more skilful than his 
English brother in discovering the natural con- 

164 Tales of Kankakee Land 

ditions and fixing the exact terms of an enduring 
amity between himself and the red man. He had 
a softer tongue and was himself more pliant to the 
savage will. He had also a better understanding 
of the hardships of Indian life and a better appre- 
ciation of its joys. The severe lessons of his own 
experience had schooled the Canadian to a gen- 
uine sympathy, which the Englishman learned 
very tardily or not at all. Yet, for the former, too, 
the forest had its awful terrors; and often some 
sudden alarm spreading through the valley must 
have hurried the inhabitants within the ramparts 
of Fort St. Joseph. War-parties from distant 
regions were apt to come and go along the Sauk 
trail, and while here to stop for a friendly visit. 
If their stay in the valley was too prolonged, it 
might result in some open rupture or in the re- 
newal of some ancient and wellnigh forgotten 
feud, if the red man could be said ever to have 
forgotten a cause of enmity. The Sauk trail 
passed around the southern end of Lake Michigan 
and penetrated to the aboriginal highways of 
Central and Northern Wisconsin, so that the ad- 
venturous and warlike elements from hostile tribes 
straying into this pathway were doubtless un- 
willing at times to concede and respect the rights 

Along the Sau-wau-see-he 165 

which the French had acquired in the Parkovash 
of the St. Joseph. 

Thus the spring of 171 2 was marked by an 
exhibition of savage frenzy long remembered in 
the valley of the St. Joseph, and leading to conse- 
quences very terrible for some of the Western 
tribes. A band of Mascoutins had wandered 
into the land along the Sauk trail and had spent the 
winter in the Parkovash. They were the friends 
and allies of their relatives, the blood-thirsty Outa- 
gamies. Supposing themselves secure in the pro- 
tection of this powerful and warlike tribe, the 
Mascoutins were in no way careful to restrain 
their young men from acts of studied insolence. 
The conduct of the latter finally became so out- 
rageous as to draw upon the band the severe 
displeasure of the people at the fort, as well as 
the contempt and hatred of the Pottowattomies, 
in whose lands these strangers were making them- 
selves very much at home. When the Mascoutins 
first appeared in this region, it was observed that 
there were captives among them — three Ottawa 
women. The Ottawas lived near the Straits of 
Mackinaw and were the firm friends of the Potto- 
wattomies, so that the presence of such captives 
must have resulted at once in an open rupture 

166 Tales of Kankakee Land 

between the visitors and the natural lords of the 
soil, had it not been for the fact that the three 
women suddenly disappeared, the Mascoutins 
insisting that these unfortunate ones had been 
restored to their people. It was believed, how- 
ever, that the captives had been put to death, or 
were kept in hiding. The latter opinion prevailed 
among the Pottowattomies, since some of their 
people who had at times crept near the encamp- 
ment of their visitors believed that on several occa- 
sions they had caught sight of the Ottawa women. 
The Mascoutins, however, stoutly maintained 
that the captives had been sent home. 

Such was the state of affairs when spring opened 
and a party of Ottawa warriors appeared one day 
in the chief town of the Pottowattomies. The 
new-comers were led by Saguina, a noted chief, 
who declared that the captives had not been re- 
stored and that one of them was his wife; nor was 
he mild in his reproaches of the Pottowattomies, 
who had done nothing while women of his tribe 
were suffering captivity on the banks of the St. 
Joseph. The Pottowattomies, having grievances 
of their own, had already determined to force the 
Mascoutins to leave the land ; but Saguina's revela- 
tions now excited them to a pitch of anger nothing 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 167 

short of fury, a violent rage — to which, in truth, 
their belligerent spirit was ever prone. The 
warriors rose up as one man and cried loudly 
for the blood of the Mascoutins. Saguina led 
the attack. So carefully planned, so sudden and 
so unexpected was the fierce onslaught that all 
the men in the band of the enemy perished in the 
struggle before they had time to seize their weapons, 
while the maidens and the children with their 
mothers were led away to the camps of the Pot- 
towattomies. But the Ottawa women could not 
be found. 

It was known at the time that a very large num- 
ber of Outagamies and Mascoutins had been 
encamped through the winter on the banks of 
Detroit River and close to the palisades of Fort 
Ponchartrain. The Ottawa captives might be 
concealed in that place. Therefore, Saguina 
hurried thither with his warriors by the easy path 
of the old Sauk trail, many joining his forces on 
the way. It is said they emerged from the woods 
in front of the fort with more than six hundred 
warriors in their ranks, and that they advanced 
in regular divisions, like troops of white soldiers. 
In fact, Saguina had fallen in with bands from 
many Western tribes who were hastening to the 

168 Tales of Kankakee Land 

Detroit River, having heard the rumor that the 
Outagamies were laying siege to FortPonchartrain. 
They discovered at once that the rumor was true, 
and learned also that the Ottawa women were in 
the Outagamie camp. The commandant of the 
fort, however, was sufficiently adroit to arrange 
a parley with the enemy, through which the cap- 
tives were restored to Saguina before the siege 
was turned against the Outagamie encampment. 

This help which had come to the French cause 
from the friendly tribes was extremely fortunate, 
for it was doubtless the intention of the Outa- 
gamies to destroy Fort Ponchartrain and then 
join their friends on the St. Joseph for a similar 
enterprise against French interests here. In the 
end, however, the Outagamies suffered the fate 
of the Mascoutins, their friends on the St. Joseph. 

So dreadful was the carnage, when the com- 
bined forces were turned against this hostile tribe, 
that many supposed the Outagamies had been 
silenced forever. But such persons reckoned 
without knowledge of the conditions in the pop- 
ulous hive hid away in the Wisconsin woods. 
Here by the banks of the Fox River this very war- 
like people had established a stronghold that 
seemed impregnable, whence in these times their 

Along the Sau-wau-see-he 169 

bands were setting forth to distress the tribes that 
were friendly to Canada. But now, it was hoped 
and beheved that if any strength yet remained 
in the Outagamie's right arm, the lessons taught 
on the St. Joseph and the Detroit would forever 
after restrain that arm. The calamities which 
they had suffered might tame the pride and cool 
the passion of any people. But these anticipa- 
tions were not realized. The report of the affairs 
in and around the two forts was promptly received 
at Quebec, only to be followed shortly after by 
tales of further disturbance on the part of the 
crafty and insolent Outagamies. Vaudreuil was 
then governor of Canada. He wisely concluded 
that the belligerent race must be utterly cut off 
without delay, if other Western Indians were to 
be held to a policy of peace — the only hope of 
security for the French settlements. To such an 
end he planned wisely and for two years spared 
no exertions by which he might subjugate, or 
extirpate, the malignant Outagamies. Yet such 
were the difficulties of the undertaking that in the 
end Vaudreuil failed, or was compelled to content 
himself with uncertain pledges of good- will. 

The governor did, however, accomplish his 
purpose in one way. He impressed all the tribes 

170 Tales of Kankakee Land 

and those at the Western posts with the fact that 
it was a matter of first importance that the Outa- 
gamies should be destroyed. The old annals are 
therefore crowded with chronicles, traditions, 
tales, rumors, covering a period of many years and 
detailing bloody encounters with these savage 
fighters from the Wisconsin woods. But of them 
all the only record that sets forth results in any 
degree commensurate with the hopes and desires 
of the Canadians and their red allies, is the story 
which reached Quebec just as the first snows of 
winter were transforming the landscape of the 
St. Lawrence, in the memorable year of 1730. It 
was a boy that brought the fearful, though truly 
welcome, tidings — Coulon de Villiers, the son and 
proud messenger of the Sieur de Villiers, the com- 
mandant of Fort St. Joseph. Years afterward 
this son had a fort of his own, played his part in 
the French and Indian war, and played it so well 
as to defeat George Washington at Fort Necessity, 
July 4, 1754. But in 1730, this boy messenger, 
Coulon, brought to the governor and council at 
Quebec the details of marvellous exploits in which 
there had been a grand expedition, a fierce en- 
counter with the Outagamies, and an overwhelm- 
ing victory for French arms. 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 171 

Late in the summer just past, tidings had 
reached Fort St. Joseph and the Pottowattomie 
town across the river to the effect that a great 
many Outagamies had entered the IHinois country 
with their women and children, had set up their 
lodges near the base of the great eminence called 
by the French Le Rocher, but since known as 
Starved Rock, and had surrounded their encamp- 
ment with rude but strong palisades. The Illinois 
Indians were occupying the Rock and some of 
the land at its base. When the visitors had thor- 
oughly fortified their own village, they began to 
quarrel with the Illinois and, finally, drove the 
latter up on the Rock and proceeded to reduce 
them by the starvation process. Anyone vent- 
uring down the difficult path by which alone 
descent was possible, was shot to death. The 
Outagamie squaws and children, eager for their 
part in the work of the siege, stationed themselves 
in canoes where the river sweeps past the perpen- 
dicular wall of this wonderful eminence. When- 
ever those imprisoned above let down a bucket 
to draw water, these cruel guards of the place cut 
the ropes or thongs. 

If it was intended that an alliance with the 
French should mean anything to a tribe ever 

172 Tales of Kankakee Land 

faithful in its adherence to Canadian interests, 
this moment was the one above all others for an 
effectual test of that meaning. Nor was the Sieur 
de Villiers the man to hesitate in the discharge 
of the duties imposed by the horrible distress of 
the unfortunate band. When the tale of their suf- 
ferings reached his ear, he knew what Canada and 
France would expect of the commandant of Fort 
St. Joseph. Runners trom the Indian town across 
the river were therefore despatched in all haste to 
every trapper throughout the Parkovash, and to all 
Pottowattomies in the valley, to the Miamis on 
the Wabash, to the Ottawas in the north, and to the 
garrisons at the Straits of Mackinaw and Fort 
Ponchartrain. Weapons of every species were 
put in the best condition for active service, ammu- 
nition was carefully packed for safe conveyance, 
and even the small cannons in the block-houses 
were taken down and made ready for the journey. 
It was said that the number of Indian warriors 
responding to the call was between twelve and 
thirteen hundred. The forts emptied themselves 
of all able-bodied defenders, and every hunter 
and trapper within reach rushed gladly to the 
defence of the common cause against the hated 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 173 

Wonderful, indeed, must have been the pro- 
cession of canoes that pushed off from the strand 
at Fort St. Joseph and held its way up against 
the river's swift current. The commandant Vil- 
liers advances foremost of all, with the lilies of 
France lighting the way for his wild host. A 
canoe follows in line with a priest standing erect 
and raising the crucifix on high, while his upturned 
vision and the prayer on his lips begs the mercy 
and blessing of Heaven. Everywhere the stroke 
of the gleaming paddles keeps time with the blithe 
rondeau of the boatmen, and as they circle the 
headlands the men from the Straits cry aloud to 
those from Ponchartrain, rousing the echoes along 
the shore and beating back the silence that for 
infinite ages has held these wilderness shades. 

And what must have been the exultation of the 
painted warriors sweeping forward to the succor 
of their old-time friends and the destruction of 
their old-time enemies? A thrilling spectacle 
was that which one might have viewed, had he 
taken his stand on the high bluff where the prairie 
approaches the river and gazed down upon the 
canoes sweeping forward in twos and threes and 
gliding gently to the portage landing. Then came 
the heavy task of transporting the equipage — the 

174 Tales of Kankakee Land 

light floating craft and the munitions of war and 
all the aids to their safe-keeping and comfort. 
Every back must bend under a heavy burden 
while this little army of Frenchmen with its red 
allies covers nearly two leagues of prairie-path in 
their approach to the head-waters of the Kankakee. 

It is said that there are two thousand bends in 
the tortuous channel of this stream ere it reaches 
those plains where it is known as the Illinois River. 
Now, if never before, the tedious delays of the 
serpentine course, no less than its muddy shal- 
lows, its floating mosses, its bewildering forests 
of reeds, might have sorely vexed these eager 
spirits burning for the fray. But at length they 
emerged from the land of lily-pads and wild rice 
and looked abroad on the firm plains of the Illi- 
nois country. 

Here they met with Saint-Ange and his son, 
who had brought their forces from the fort farther 
down the river. Together they proceeded to 
Le Rocher. The Outagamies, observing the ap- 
proach of this host, fled within their barricades 
and made the wall firm and fast on all sides. The 
wigwams had been set up in a grove, and this had 
been surrounded by palisades standing thick and 
high. The French found these defences bullet- 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 175 

proof and, for their small guns, cannon-proof. 
There was nothing to be done except to pick off 
any one of the besieged rash enough to show his 
head. Thus the matter stood for some days — 
those who had entrapped the Illinois on the big 
Rock being themselves ensnared within their own 
wooden walls; while the Sieur de Villiers and his 
grim multitude stood watching and waiting. 
But the besiegers knew that they had not long to 
wait, for the foe had little to eat and nothing to 
drink; and, therefore, the Frenchman was on his 
guard from sunset to sunset. 

Finally, one dark night a portion of the wall 
was removed with utmost silence, and the Outa- 
gamies, with softest tread, stole out of their ram- 
parts. There was one chance in ten thousand 
that they might find safety in flight. But even 
that chance was now taken away, for the guards 
were watching them. When the fugitive band 
was quite outside of the wooden enclosure and 
was just breaking into the prairie, the alarm was 
sounded, and the next moment the night air rang 
with the shouts of the soldiers and the pealing 
war-cries of the red men, and the din and roar of 
flashing guns. The pursuit was so prompt and 
furious that the poor Outagamies' hope was a 

176 Tales of Kankakee Land 

forlorn one from the beginning. Weak from 
starvation, they were speedily overtaken and easily 
overcome, the women and children first of all 
sinking down on the plain pierced by the swift 
arrows or torn by whistling bullets. 

But if fortune favored the men for an instant, 
they, in turn, succumbed to the awful stroke of the 
Frenchman's revengeful arm. The pursuit began 
and terminated in a horrible butchery, the mid- 
night darkness cloaking the terrors of death in a 
thousand ghastly forms, where the tomahawk 
and the spear vied with the gun and the broad- 
sword in ridding the land of a scourge that all 
through many years had felt or feared. When 
the morning sun looked down on the plain, the 
dead were everywhere, eight hundred having 
perished in the flight. Of this number it is said 
that six hundred were found to be the bodies 
of women and children. The Indians from 
Le Rocher could find neither acts nor words to 
express their great joy, as they viewed the com- 
plete destruction of their cruel foe. The allies 
mused thoughtfully on the scene and called to 
mind their own friends who had perished through 
the Outagamies' wanton cruelty. The Sieur de 
Villiers and Saint-Ange paced back and forth 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 177 

across the field of death, and their sons walked 
behind them. Now and then, the group paused 
to exchange views, or surmises, concerning the 
rewards which the government in France had 
promised to those who should do this deed. 

These resolute Frenchmen from the East, 
having achieved their difficult and hazardous 
enterprise, then hurried back to the St. Joseph, 
well satisfied that the loitering bands of Outa- 
gamies — if indeed any of them still survived in 
the old Wisconsin nest — would not soon again 
venture to shoot the tame doves and poultry or 
feast on the calves and pigs or drive off the horses 
and oxen, or steal the scalps of Frenchmen and 
Pottowattomies, during the summer visit to the 
region of those vine-clad homes along the beloved 
Parkovash. And what must have been the 
feelings of the boy Coulon when he made the 
journey to Quebec to tell the Marquis de Beau- 
harnois — then governor of Canada — and the 
intendant Dupuy and all the numerous officials 
of Church and State, what his father and he, to- 
gether with the two Saint-Anges and all the others, 
had accomplished in the Illinois country for the 
glory of France and the safety of the cause ? He 
arrived so late that he must have remained to 

178 Tales of Kankakee Land 

spend the cold months on the St. Lawrence. 
Surely, when he danced that winter with little 
Mademoiselle Marie, or Madeline, or Mathilde, 
it must have been with a light heart and a proud 
one. And when he told the story over and over 
for the hundredth time, it must have been with a 
full heart, for he had fought bravely in the thick 
of the fight. How tenaciously his boy's memory 
must have held on to every minute detail in all the 
horrors of that terrible night on the dark plain 
by the side of the great Rock in the land of the 

We are not informed how often it seemed neces- 
sary for the officer who ruled at Fort St. Joseph 
to gather his retainers about him and sally forth 
on one of these wrathful incursions into the lands 
of their enemies near or remote. But it seems 
probable that the commandant de Villiers' ex- 
pedition stands quite alone. The truculence of 
the Outagamies and their friends was exceptional, 
other tribes lending a most willing ear to those 
soft accents that so skilfully promoted the ends 
of peace and sweet accord. Warlike measures 
were least of all in keeping with the American 
policy of the French Crown and the careful plan- 
ning of the government at Quebec. That policy, 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 179 

and those plans, contemplated nothing more than 
the development of the fur-trade, the discovery 
of the vast wealth of precious minerals in which 
these lands were supposed to abound, and the 
winning over of pagan peoples for the glory of 
the faith. Except at a few isolated spots, the 
country might remain a solitude. The magnifi- 
cent realm now apportioned to the great common- 
wealths of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois might be 
made to yield a certain number of bales of fur 
and hides, but its possessors seemed not to have 
had the faintest dream of the actual resources abid- 
ing in their marvellous prize. 

But the fur-trade itself was something tangible 
and, indeed, bade fair to prove one of the impor- 
tant supports of the French treasury. And this 
trade through an extensive area of the country, 
together with the activities thus aroused, centred 
at old Fort St. Joseph. The hunter, or the trapper, 
from time to time, stole out from the seclusion of 
his abiding-place in some leafy dale or dark ravine 
and hurried to the fort with the wealth which his 
patient toil had wrested from nature's wilds. To 
this gate came the bands of red men with enormous 
accumulations of these coveted treasures, the rich 
pelts of the beaver, the mink, the otter, the shining 

180 Tales of Kankakee Land 

robe of the black bear, the soft folds of deer-skin, 
and the woolly coat of the buffalo. To the shore 
in front of these palisades swept the voyageurs, 
whose songs had kept time with their paddles as 
they journeyed up the Illinois and the Kankakee, 
penetrated to the utmost sources of the tribu- 
taries of Lake Michigan, or worked their way 
through all the bright waters of the Wabash. 

When old-time faces were seen at the fort on 
such a day, we may not doubt that the echoes on 
the river were wakened far and near by wild song 
and the hoarse voices of boisterous revelry. But 
after the wilderness had again claimed for itself 
these spirits bold and free, there was little to break 
the serene calm of the long hours, except the 
waters rippling by or the screams of the eagles 
far above the tree-tops or the sweetly solemn tones 
of matin bells and vesper hymns. Sometimes a 
travelling priest with his retinue came up the St. 
Joseph and rested for a short season with his 
brethren. It is even recorded that Englishmen 
from the Atlantic coast had been known to follow 
around to the mouth of the Mississippi, and having 
toiled up against its mighty flood, to hold their 
way through the length of the Illinois and the 
Kankakee and to find the portage path and so 

Alon^ the Sau-wau-see-be 181 

come to spy out this stronghold that floated the 
lilies of France, and in the name of that proud 
banner held all the land. Yet, in general, strange 
voices were seldom heard at Fort St. Joseph. Days 
and weeks, and even months, went by when no 
unfamiliar face or form appeared on the river^s 
bank or came through the forest- wall. 

Thus the years wore on, down to the Frenchman's 
sad hour, the hour that saw his opportunity in the 
valley of the St. Joseph pass forever, together with 
his just title to all that splendid American empire 
for which through a century and a half he had 
labored and hoped and dreamed and put up his 
prayers. Englishmen had swept the plains of 
Abraham, Montcalm lay dead within the walls of 
Quebec. And so, the men that came round the 
lakes and up the St. Joseph pulled down from the 
fort the insignia of France and set up the British 
arms, to the consternation of those who dwelt in 
the Parkovash and to the amazement of all red 
men in the West. For a period of only twelve 
years might the lion and the unicorn hold sway in 
this land of the buffalo and the beaver, yet such 
a space of time was enough for several disastrous 
events in the place, and, finally, for the destruction 
of the fort itself. 

182 Tales of Kankakee Land 

One day while we were wandering over the field 
formerly occupied by Fort St. Joseph, Doctor 
Sandy chanced to pick up a metal button on whose 
face was a design composed of the letter K and the 
figure 8. '^ Ha, the King's Eighth ! " said he, ^^ the 
Eighth Regiment, whose men were stationed here 
at the time of the massacre." Some of the Doc- 
tor's Scotch ancestors had been among those who 
were engaged in the fur-trade in this region even 
before the days of the Revolution, and certain 
important traditions concerning the spirit of the 
French people living here had come down to him. 
He proceeded to disclose these traditions, together 
with an account of the memorable attack that had 
resulted in the death of so many Englishmen. 

It was on the morning of a summer's day in 
1763 — before the sun was high, according to Doc- 
tor Sandy's statement — that a few Pottowattomie 
warriors entered the gate of the fort, and, having 
exchanged friendly greetings, scattered over the 
premises and mingled with the garrison. These 
things occurred at the time when Pontiac's forces 
were laying siege to Detroit. That wily chief 
had sent the Pottowattomie braves on a terrible 
mission, one which for many reasons was pecul- 
iarly acceptable to themselves. They were to 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 183 

take the old Sauk trail from Detroit to the St. 
Joseph, and then turn down the path that led to 
the fort. It had been the custom to allow small 
bands of Indians to enter the gate and gratify 
their curiosity by wandering over the place. So 
Ensign Schlosser, who commanded here at the 
time, did not seek to restrain his visitors or put 
any careful watch on their actions. He had not 
heard of the Indian uprising and the condition of 
affairs at Detroit. Suddenly the fort rang with 
a great cry, and a chief springing on the com- 
mander bore him down to the floor. The followers 
of the red leader, hearing the signal, each struck 
down his chosen victim. Only two members of 
the garrison survived, one of these being Ensign 
Schlosser. They were led off to experience the 
horrors of captivity in the Indian camp. 

As one saunters across this field that witnessed 
these strange historic conditions, he recalls that 
Fort St. Joseph, although hidden away in the vast 
forest depths of the great continent, did not escape 
its part in the Revolutionary struggle. For the 
citizen soldiers of Kaskaskia on the lower Illinois 
twice marched up, and, having overpowered the 
garrison, plundered the place. But the final fate of 
the ancient stronghold was not only such as no one 

184 Tales of Kankakee Land 

would dream of, but it was also highly dramatic. 
It marks the farthest north in all the conquests of 
Spanish arms on the Western continent. As an 
act of retaliation against the English, because of 
their conduct on the Mississippi, the Spanish 
authorities at St. Louis, in 1781, organized an 
expedition that rapidly marched in the dead of 
winter across the frozen prairies of Illinois. Steal- 
ing cautiously through the forest they surrounded 
the fort before any intimation of their approach 
had aroused the inmates. The commanding 
officer was absent at the time, his duties having 
called him to the Straits of Mackinaw. A half- 
hearted defence, in which only one man, a negro, 
was killed, and he by accident, terminated in 
capitulation. The Spaniards looted the place 
and then burned it to the ground. Afterward, 
Spain consented to waive her rights to the region, 
and the territory came back to the English. But 
the latter failed to rebuild the fort, realizing that 
it must soon fall into the hands of the Americans, 
as of course it did according to the terms of the 
treaty of Paris. 

Doctor Sandy, however, was well aware that 
there were other considerations sufficient in them- 
selves to prevent the restoration of this important 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 185 

defence of the white man^s interests in the land. 
The French inhabitants begged their conquerors 
that the ancient ramparts should be set up once 
more. Their petition, however, was promptly 
refused, and the traders, who had long relied on 
the protection of the fort, were told to go and live 
with the Indians or leave the country. The 
English had much positive evidence — so Doctor 
Sandy's family averred — convincing them that 
the massacre of the garrison during Pontiac's 
savage war had been consummated with the 
French inhabitants' full knowledge of the pro- 
posed attack, if not with their connivance and 
substantial aid. To go and live with the Indians 
would be no hardship for the French trader, 
except for the danger which the red man's village 
ever feared from the approach of its own enemies. 
And it is not improbable that the presence of the 
trader's stores would invite the enemy. So he 
neither left the country nor sought a home in the 
red man's village, but built for himself a strong- 
hold, together with his brethren, along the Parko- 
vash. One was even bold enough to set up his 
establishment on the south bank of the St. Joseph, 
and just where the Sauk trail crosses the river. 
An American trader, William Burnett, of New 

186 Tales of Kankakee Land 

Jersey, may have been one of those who suffered 
from the loss of Fort St. Joseph. If not, he was 
one of the first to follow our flag into the valley. 
A mile above the mouth of the river the Kalamazoo 
trail made use of one of the natural fords. A 
deep cut through a steep bluff on the west side 
shows where the trail ascended to the higher 
ground. Following down the cut one comes 
out upon a smooth terrace of land of just sufficient 
elevation to be beyond all danger from the over- 
flow during the spring freshet. And here, where 
the trail came up from the river, once rose the 
stanch walls of Burnett's thriving trading-post. 
The place was well chosen. If the frowning 
embankment behind the post added somewhat of 
gloom to the evening hour, there was cheer in 
the sunrise, since the glory of the new day fell full 
on the spot, while the sheen of a swift current 
and the merry ripple at the ford kindled the spirit 
with fresh resolve. And, following the course of 
the stream below, the eye swept over a great 
bay-like expanse, where tufts of wild rice and 
other water-grasses alternated with quiet lagoons 
and the various channels into which the river 
there divides before gathering its floods for the 
greater depths of the harbor's basin. This brave 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 187 

establishment, snug and stout, was thus stationed 
where all who travelled by land, as well as all who 
journeyed by the river, must pass its gates. Its 
master was surely a man of iron nerve who knew 
not the tremor of fear, since he maintained his 
own through a score of years, and more, in this 
place of grave and constant peril. 

A motley crew it was that came and went. 
Solemn red men filing out of the forest on the 
farther bank stepped cautiously over the ford; 
or sweeping around the river's curve, lifted their 
canoes from the water and gently inverted them 
on the stony beach. With these were numerous 
half-breeds — surly fellows, ever ill at ease — and 
villanous white men whose crimes had cut them 
off from the fellowship of their kindred. The 
wretched presence of these outcasts had found 
tolerance here, if not sympathy, because of the 
Indian's strange law of hospitality, a law that com- 
pelled the red man to feed and clothe and shelter 
all who came in peace. Such was the will of the 
Great Spirit! Sometimes the canoes that glided 
by the post held the crew of a rival trader, and 
their grim salute might be the ping of their bullets 
on the palisades. At length, after weeks of dis- 
appointed hope, came the day of rejoicing when a 

188 Tales of Kankakee Land 

sloop, the Hunter or the Iroquois, stood in from 
the lake, tacked up the river, and dropped anchor 
in mid-stream just below the ford. Casks and 
boxes and sacks and huge bundles of merchandise 
were hoisted on deck and let down into the stout 
punts that plied between the ship and the landing. 
The vessel's hold, relieved of these burdens, was 
then filled with great bales of furs, the rich tribute 
wrested from the wilderness through many months 
of toil and severe vicissitudes, in which many 
human beings wore out their lives along the lakes, 
the rivers or the great marsh-land or in the deep 
forests or on the wide prairie. 

Until quite recently a circular foundation of 
heavy stone-masonry marked the location of 
Burnett's post. This wall, set up with much care, 
seems to have been a part of the block-house. 
Men still remember the time when this stanch 
foundation was roofed over with the remains of 
what had been the heavy oaken floor of an upper 
apartment. The ground room thus surviving 
to our time was found to contain a chest with huge 
lock and strong iron bands. The rusty lock was 
easily forced open and the heavy lid thrown back. 
But one object was found in the chest, a book 
marked Ledger B. The pages of the latter were 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 189 

covered with accounts and with an occasional 
note of relevant facts, all spread out in a clear 
and careful hand and still plainly legible. Names 
of people and places as recorded here have little 
significance now, but the reader cannot easily 
conceal a strong curiosity in the price of a gun or 
a copper kettle or a yard of red broadcloth. 

Ledger B shows certain items that refer to a trade 
in cider, and with startling confirmation of its 
record the stumps of a few aged apple-trees still 
survive, doubtless the source of the post's supply 
of this beverage, and suggestive of the fact that 
hard cider in the wilderness might bring the 
price of brandy. But brandy itself was at hand, 
and whiskey, too, and New England rum ; for this 
was the particular spot on the St. Joseph where 
in the day of its influence boisterous spirits held 
high wassail, and the son of the forest forgot his 
sorrows in copious draughts of the water that is 
also fire. It is not hard to understand the secret 
of the fur-trader's enormous gains, for it was the 
common practice that a gill of poor whiskey should 
be diluted and drugged and then sold for a dollar. 

Nor were other commodities to be had on more 
favorable terms. The price of a gun was deter- 
mined by spreading out the skins of beaver, mink, 

190 Tales of Kankakee Land 

and otter, and then laying them one above another 
until the pile pressed down should equal in height 
the length of the gun. To increase still further 
this enormous cost, the barrel was made of great 
length, the dimensions of the gun being often 
more than seven feet. The shot-gun and the rifle 
of our day stand from three feet to three and a 
half feet high. In those times it was highly im- 
portant that a man should hit what he aimed at, 
and it is a fact — and was then an unquestioned 
belief — that there is a little advantage in the sight 
drawn over a long gun-barrel. Therefore, the 
excessive proportions of their fire-arms was tol- 
erated as a necessary burden both in the purchase 
of the article and in its daily use. Doctor Sandy 
often spoke of this old trading-post, calling par- 
ticular attention to certain deep depressions in 
the ground near the block-house, and these he 
supposed were the remains of the wine-cellars 
and pits for the storage of vegetables. He re- 
ferred, also, to the tiny grove of wild asparagus, 
which is still to be seen and is the lineal descendant 
of the old garden-bed. Wild parsnips, too, are 
there; but left to the self-assertion of their own 
nature, they have degenerated into poisonous 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 191 

Burnett's place doubtless inherited most of the 
trade that once had centred at old Fort St. Joseph. 
Evidences of his extensive traffic are not wanting 
nor hard to find, quite independent of the ample 
testimony on the pages of Ledger B. Throughout 
Southern Michigan and Northern Indiana and 
down the Kankakee are many old Indian graves 
that contain a wealth of beads, silver bracelets, 
earrings and ornamental buckles, guns, scalping 
knives and tomahawks. In many cases these 
things are supposed to have come from Burnett's 
post, because with them is found an occasional 
porcelain bowl decorated within and without 
like broken fragments of pottery which one may 
easily find on the site of the post, and the manu- 
facture of which belonged to the period of this 
man's operations in trade. These objects, so 
precious in the eyes of the savage, have come 
back to remind us of the ancient traffic in those 
first days when there was a market for furs in this 
far-away spot on the wild bank of the beautiful 
St. Joseph. The thrift of those who labored here 
was, however, in some degree unfavorable to 
American interests, though the trader himself 
was doubtless unconscious of his service to our 
enemies. There can be little doubt that the Potto- 

192 Tales of Kankakee Land 

wattomies, in making their preparations for the 
war of 1812, equipped themselves largely from 
the stock at Burnett's post. Burnett himself 
was no longer there. Apprised of the gather- 
ing storm, he had taken warning, and having 
disposed of his interests in 1808, had left the 

It was a dark hour in the valleys of the St. 
Joseph and the Kankakee; the red man's heart was 
full of hate. Maddened by the encroachments of 
our race, and remembering well the fate of Eastern 
tribes, he was nursing his wrath and making ready 
to strike an awful blow, and then, if need be, to 
perish forever on the soil that held the dust of his 
fathers. Burnett had little liking for the silence 
of these bands of red men that filed across the 
ford; he read a warning in their angry scowls; and 
their mutterings as they passed up the trail mag- 
nified his shrewd forebodings, already dark. 
Sitting in his arm-chair when the twilight shadows 
of the bluff lay black on the river, he listened to 
the whip-poor-wills calling from the opposite 
bank and weighed carefully in his mind the grow- 
ing evils with which the times were rife. He 
pondered well on these things and wisely concluded 
to retreat from the wilderness of the St. Joseph 

Along the Sau-wau-see-be 193 

before his stronghold should become his prison, 
and possibly his tomb. 

The antiquarian who wanders over the site of 
Burnett's post is apt to linger thoughtfully over 
the place now known to some as The Cursed Spot. 
Just at the top of the bluff and by the side of the 
deep cut that marks the old trail, they point out 
a space of one or two square yards where nothing 
will grow. It is bordered by a heavy turf, and its 
soil seems identical with that of the surrounding 
area. But from the seeds dropped on its surface 
no buds of life will spring, and adventurous rootlets 
that work their way into its rich loam shrivel and 
die. This is The Cursed Spot. '^What hap- 
pened here?" one must perforce inquire. Some 
will tell you that it was a crime, black and horrible, 
so that even the leaves and grass trembled and 
shrank away. Others will say that some good 
angel standing here spurned the ground with 
indignant foot and cast a blighting spell on the 
spot from which he viewed below some unrighteous 
orgy. And still others will declare that the 
Indians sitting here to mix their paints, flung on 
the ground the dust of strange dark minerals 
whose potency was such that it still survives to 
quench the glory of bud and leaf and flower. 



Burnett received a sure warning of the im- 
pending danger; indeed, the sources of his infor- 
mation were finally such as to leave no doubt in 
his mind. The Black Partridge, a chief who lived 
on the lower Kankakee, was accustomed to cross 
over to Lake Michigan and follow the coast-line 
around to the harbor of the St. Joseph. At such 
times he built a fire in one of the warm pockets 
of the neighboring sand-hills and awaited the 
arrival of two of his friends. The thin column 
of white smoke continued for some hours curling 
up from that particular spot in the hills. It was 
a signal to any Indian that might be fishing in 
the harbor or loitering about the landing of the 
trading-post, and the intelligence that The Black 
Partridge was at hand quickly sped up the river 
to places fifty miles away. It came to the lodge 
of Leopold Pokagon, the civil chief of the Potto- 
wattomies on the St. Joseph. This lodge stood 


First Citizen of the Parkovash 195 

in the midst of Pokagon's village and by the side 
of a spring whose abundant waters descending 
rapidly along a quiet and deeply shaded vale 
received through its course of a mile or more the 
offerings of a hundred other springs, and then 
slipped softly into the currents of the St. Joseph. 
The time was when the trout-stream that flowed 
from Pokagon's spring joined the St. Joseph at 
a place near the west landing of the Sauk trail 
ford. Now the points are some distance apart. 
The trail itself bordered the vale to Pokagon's 
town, and then held its direct course across the 

Whenever it became known that The Black 
Partridge had kindled a fire in the sand-hills by 
the lake, the chief Pokagon hurried over the trail 
to the landing, turned his canoe down stream, 
and was soon approaching the ancient village 
presided over by Tope-in-a-bee, the war-chief of 
the Pottowattomies. This is the village that from 
time immemorial had held the pleasant field oppo- 
site the site of Fort St. Joseph. Tope-in-a-bee, in 
waiting for his friend, stepped into the latter's 
canoe without a word, and the light craft, impelled 
by two powerful paddles, swept from headland 
to headland, like some bird skimming the waters 

196 Tales of Kankakee Land 

in careful search of its prey. They would pause, 
however, to kindle a fire on Moccason bluff and 
again at Big Bear hill, so that The Black Partridge 
might know that they had received his message 
and were on the way. 

One morning in the spring of 1808, the signal- 
smoke went up from the accustomed place in the 
hills. Its slender column for a time attracted 
no one's attention at the trading-post and might 
have died away unobserved by any white person 
had it not been for a pair of dark-blue eyes that 
were looking sharply from the gate. He who 
gazed so attentively was perplexed somewhat over 
the conduct of an Indian boy whose canoe had 
shot out of the reeds below the ford and had 
pushed up stream and past the landing with some- 
thing like precipitance. The youth, in fact, 
looked neither to the right nor to the left before 
he reached the bend and passed on out of sight. 

The inquiring eyes were then turned toward the 
reeds, and so on far beyond to the light plume that 
curled above the distant sand-hills. It was the figure 
of a tall man standing in the gateway of Burnett's 
post, a man whose limbs were those of a schooled 
athlete, and whose broad shoulders supported 
a well-poised head, with abundant locks clustering 

First Citizen of the Parkovash 197 

in thick curls on his neck, and with a complexion 
where a smooth olive had been deepened by long 
exposure. This man of stalwart frame read with 
joy the signal of The Black Partridge, and only 
hoped that its summons would reach willing ears 
and be obeyed. What might he not accomplish 
through a secret conference in the sand-hills with 
Pokagon, Tope-in-a-bee, and The Black Partridge? 
He read the message with joy, for this man was 
John Baptist Chandonnai, an Indian scout in 
the secret service of the United States Government, 
one whose duty it was to promote the ends of peace 
in the camps of the Pottowattomies, and to report 
any of their plots and plans that might be hostile 
to American interests. He was also to observe 
carefully the movements of those emissaries sent 
out by the British Canadians and now working 
industriously to further estrange and embitter 
our Indians. Well known to all who dwelt in the 
Parkovash and on the Islands of the Kankakee, 
and familiar to every red man in the region of the 
Great Lakes, and with racial antipathy to English- 
men, Chandonnai was an ideal guardian of all 
interests involved, both those of the white man 
and those of the red one. Moreover, he had spent 
most of his life in the woods between Detroit, 

198 Tales of Kankakee Land 

Fort Wayne, and Fort Dearborn, knew all the 
secrets of the wilderness, knew well the Indian's 
daily life and conversation, his habits of thought, 
the excellencies and the weaknesses of his char- 
acter. And beyond everything else — even beyond 
his keen discrimination and his clear, cool judg- 
ment in these affairs — was the fact that this 
Frenchman of the old school was a man of sterling 
worth, just and genuinely honorable, a thoroughly 
good Catholic, devoted to the real principles of 
his faith. In times that called loudly for the 
good man and the hero, this brave soul was easily 
the first citizen of the Parkovash. 

When night settled on the river, it found the 
scout peering through the loop-holes of the block- 
house where he had been for an hour or more, 
anxious to know whether the signal-fire had been 
heeded and who would respond. His careful 
watch was rewarded, but too late for him to deter- 
mine with certainty who had answered the call. 
Indeed, the canoe that passed by clung so close 
to the shadows of the opposite bank, and moved 
so sluggishly, that even this man's experienced 
eye found it difficult to distinguish the object as 
anything more than a drifting log. However, the 
last faint reflections of twilight still lingered on the 

First Citizen of the Parkovash 199 

ford, and as the object passed over, they outlined 
dimly the canoe with the motionless forms of two 
men crouching low. The scout drew back from 
the loop-hole quite satisfied with the knowledge 
acquired, and, descending to Burnett's supper- 
table, he ate the evening meal in silence. 

The hours wore away; the lights were put out; 
the watch-dogs lay dreaming in their kennels ; the 
inmates of the post were fast asleep; no sound 
broke the stillness, save the swirl of the current 
in front of the landing and the howling of a pack 
of wolves miles and miles away, where a deer was 
straining forward to reach the river and put the 
barrier of its swift waters between herself and her 
pursuers. The gates of the trading-post had been 
closed and bolted and barred, but the scout stood 
outside, leaning against the palisade-wall. His 
rifle rested on his arm. The scene had changed, 
for the moon had risen full-orbed, and Chan- 
donnai, before venturing forth, was only waiting 
until its beams should most nearly counterfeit the 
day. Finally, he stepped down to his canoe, 
pushed across to the other bank, drew the light 
craft into the thicket, and pursued his way through 
the forest. 

To follow his path would be to make the detour 

200 Tales of Kankakee Land 

of a swamp. Afterward, one must cross a stream 
and then strike into the dry bed of an ancient 
water-course that opens out on the lake-front a 
mile above the rendezvous of The Black Partridge 
and his friends. Having reached the shore of 
the lake, Chandonnai raised his powerful voice 
in one of the old songs of the Canadian boat- 
men, a carol whose lines he remembered since 
the days when he had held his place in the long 
canoe of the voyageurs. As he sang, he walked 
down the shore, advancing rapidly along the hard 
sands near the water's edge. The high embank- 
ment that in this place fronts the lake for a half 
mile reflected the great wave of melody far out 
on to the floor of the lake, but allowed scarcely 
the faintest echo to creep through the overtopping 
verdure and into the forest beyond. But these 
conditions in no way hindered the rich tones from 
reaching those for whom they were intended, the 
three friends around the fire in the pocket of the 
sand-hill down the shore. Before the first strain 
had died away, the three men leaped to their feet 
and listened intently. Long before the stalwart 
form of the singer came in view, they recognized 
his voice, and then these red men knew that he 
who was approaching came with full knowledge 

First Citizen of the Parkovash 201 

of their presence, that he desired to participate 
in their dehberations, and that it might be neither 
a judicious thing nor an easy one to put off the 
Frenchman who could read their secret thoughts 
and whose counsel had ever been wise and good. 
And it might be that the white man could speak 
the word that should lift the burden of anxiety 
now weighing down the spirits of Pokagon, Tope- 
in-a-bee, and The Black Partridge. 

The singer walked forward into the full moon- 
light, lowered his voice, and then came on in 
silence. He sat down on a log that lay just beyond 
the reach of the waves and immediately in front 
of the great white sand-pile near whose summit 
was the depression marked by the signal-smoke 
in the early morning. The scout held a handful 
of pebbles which he cast one by one into the face 
of the advancing wave. The Indians above were 
peering down through the branches of some of 
the dwarf cedars with which the sand-pocket was 
lined. But neither the human form at the water's 
edge nor the three friends at the hill-top gave any 
other signs of conscious life, until the moon had 
traversed a considerable arc of her farther journey 
through the skies. The red men must first deter- 
mine and fix in their minds what information they 

202 Tales of Kankakee Land 

are willing to impart freely, and what secrets they 
will endeavor to withhold. At length The Black 
Partridge leaped across an outer branch of the 
cedar and slid down the yielding sand to the level of 
the beach, as noiseless in his descent as the hilPs 
shadow in which he now stood. This Indian 
was happy to be known by the name of a bird 
which we of this day call the ruffed grouse, a 
proud, beautiful, and singularly intelligent creat- 
ure, whose most peculiar characteristic is the habit 
of perching on a log in the moonlight during 
spring-time and attracting its fellows by drumming 
on the log with its wings. So, the Indian by some 
strange skill of articulation, a nice art which long 
practice had enabled him to acquire, gave the 
low, booming sound of this grouse, or partridge. 
The scout, perfectly familiar with the call of every 
creature in the wilderness, perceived the meaning 
of the gentle summons, smiled at the ingenious 
welcome, turned, and then came forward with 
both hands extended to greet the Pottowattomie 

Chandonnai and the red men were soon seated 
on the evergreen boughs with which the ground 
was thickly strewn on all sides of a glowing fire- 
hole, or hearth, at the centre of the sand-pocket. 

First Citizen of the Parkovasli 203 

The Indians discovered that the Frenchman had 
brought with him a handful of pink flowers, the 
fragrant buds and blossoms of the trailing arbutus, 
a plant sacred to the Pottowattomies and to all 
native tribes that dwelt in the region of the Great 
Lakes. The flower was associated with certain 
of their legends revealing the Great Spirit's interest 
in their welfare. Chandonnai knew well a bank 
rich in the spicy odor of the arbutus, and he had 
gathered the flowers in passing, since he wished 
to appeal to the religious instincts of these red 
men. Each of the latter received a strand of the 
fragrant blossoms and pressed it to his lips and 
nostrils. Then all sat in silence while a carved 
pipe-bowl with long decorated stem was filled 
again and again and passed many times from one 
to another. At length the scout began to say that 
he had recently returned from Detroit where he 
had conversed with the priest who formerly had 
visited from time to time the villages of the Potto- 
wattomies. He then drew from his bosom a 
small packet which the priest had sent to Pokagon 
and which was found to contain a bottle of holy- 
water and, also, one of sacred oil for anointing 
the body of a dying person. The priest had, more- 
over, written out certain careful directions for a 

204 Tales of Kankakee Land 

burial-service, and the lines of a simple prayer 
which the children might be taught to repeat. 

From his youth Pokagon had striven assiduously 
to comprehend the Christian faith and to follow 
its teachings, and the instructions of the priest 
were in response to the Indian's request to be 
shown what course to pursue in order that the 
truths of the white man's religion might be kept 
alive in the hearts of the people. Tope-in-a-bee and 
The Black Partridge — who had been in the past 
only slightly submissive to Christian influence — 
were greatly moved at sight of the oil and the holy- 
water, and begged to be allowed to test the efficacy 
of the former and to touch a drop of the latter 
to their tongues. But the scout insisted that these 
things must not be put to such use, that their pur- 
pose was not to refresh the body but to sustain 
the spirit. Withholding these visible and tangible 
elements only stimulated the natural curiosity of 
their simple natures. 

They were in a frame of mind to look into these 
mysteries. The arbutus flowers had turned their 
thoughts toward the spiritual ideas of their own 
people, and while musing thus they might heed 
more carefully those of the Christian faith. In 
explaining the use of the symbols provided through 

First Citizen of the Parkovash 205 

the kindness of the priest, the Frenchman was led 
on to say that he had often thought that the Great 
Spirit whom their fathers had worshipped was 
none other than the God of the Christian. " There- 
fore," said the scout, ^^you and all good Indians 
should help the chief Pokagon in his pious efforts 
to instruct the people. So, your children may 
be happy in this life and prepared for the life to 
come; and so, worshipping the same great God, 
they will wish to be at peace with their white 
brothers." Tope-in-a-bee and The Black Par- 
tridge took the chief Pokagon by the hand and 
pledged him their support. 

Chandonnai had spoken from the heart, and yet, 
had he studied his part with even greater care, 
he could not have hit upon a more cunning policy. 
This appeal had been to their best and deepest 
instincts. Not deeming it expedient, however, 
that he should then follow up the advantage 
gained, he turned abruptly to The Black Partridge 
and asked: "Are the hearts of your young men 
now inclined to peace?" At this the Indians 
moved uneasily. The chief from the lower Kan- 
kakee averted his glance as he confessed that his 
people were not so inclined. 

"Last summer," said the Frenchman, "the 

206 Tales of Kankakee Land 

Great White Father sent you many blankets. 
Since then the snows have come and gone; did 
not the blankets keep you warm?" 

"The Great Father sent us good blankets," 
said The Black Partridge. 

"I have not heard," the scout continued, "that 
the trader Burnett returned to you a small price 
for your furs." 

The Indians shrugged their shoulders, as though 
some ground of complaint might here be found, 
if looked for. But the scout — not forgetting the 
hint that Burnett was in disfavor — knew well that 
there must be some more substantial reason 
why the young men were not now inclined to 
peace. So he continued his interrogations, hop- 
ing to draw out some explanation of the causes 
that were leading up to the threatened Indian 

"Has the English Father sent his servants from 
Maiden," said the scout, "to whisper evil words 
in the ears of the young men?" The Indians 
glanced from side to side, but they neither moved 
their bodies nor uttered a syllable in response. 
The silence of some minutes was finally broken 
by the war-chief of the St. Joseph, who avoided 
the question, volunteering, however, an important 

First Citizen of the Parkovask 207 

disclosure. With a scowl of disapproval, showing 
his own feeling in the matter, he hissed out, 
^^Tecumseh, the Shawnee!" 

"Tecumseh," laughed Chandonnai, ^^and what 
has he been able to do?'^ 

''He has made my people hate The Black Par- 
tridge!" said the Kankakee chief. ''For half a 
moon he tarried in our lodges. Sitting in the 
council of the old men, he begged them to show 
the people that he was wrong, but no tongue 
could deny his word. He called the young men 
about him and spoke in words soft and low, de- 
clared that the Great Spirit would help them 
to drive the pale face beyond the mountains in 
the East, and that it was the will of the Great 
Spirit for none but his red children to possess the 
land. The women and children ran forth and 
gathered in the midst of the warriors that they 
might hear the voice of the Shawnee. When all 
stood in silence, he spoke again ; but now his face 
was a thunder-cloud, the flashes of his eye were 
the fiery glances of Pauguk, his swift words had 
wings. And I, I alone, withstood him. I warned 
the people that Tecumseh had stolen away their 
reason, that they were beside themselves with a 
hope that must fail, that when Tecumseh's folly 

208 Tales of Kankakee Land 

had kindled the anger of the Great White Father, 
the children of the pale face would cut us off 
utterly from the land. But my people scorned 
me, for my utterance is weak, and the sayings of 
the Shawnee were pleasant to their ears. I could 
do no more, for he who deceived the people turned 
on me with his swift speech. He stamped on 
the ground, and the warriors stood still, the women 
shed tears, and the children cried out in wild alarm. 
He stamped on the ground again, and all the lodges 
shook. He stamped again, and a fierce blast 
swept in from the lake, whistled and screamed 
through the reeds, and tore the green leaves from 
the village oak. Then the young men declared 
that the words of Tecumseh were the promises 
of the Great Spirit!" 

The chief paused to study the effect of his words. 
But the set features of the Frenchman completely 
masked his real emotions. He knew that the 
region whose interests he was seeking to safe- 
guard might soon be face to face with one of those 
semi-religious uprisings, such as Indian commu- 
nities have been prone to from very ancient times. 
In the old days, these fanatical eruptions, where 
the prophet's vision has aroused the warrior's zeal, 
seem to have united at certain periods a con- 

First Citizen of the Parkovash 209 

federacy of many tribes against any or all others, 
and within the historic era have several times 
turned the whole force of the wilderness against 
the Anglo-Saxon border-land. Chandonnai might 
confidently hope that some means would be found 
to check for a time this wave of savage frenzy, 
though no man could say what loss humanity 
might suffer before these mad energies had spent 
themselves. He would do what might be done, 
yet it did not seem that such ends could be fur- 
thered by augmenting in any way the alarm with 
which it was evident the three chiefs were now 
sorely distressed. 

"Is Tecumseh still with your young men?" he 
asked of The Black Partridge. 

Being answered that the Shawnee had departed 
a few days before for the villages of their people 
in the Wisconsin woods, he urged the Kankakee 
chief to return home and continue his prudent 
counsels in the hope that reason would regain its 
sway in the minds of some. "I will come to your 
lodge on the third night," he added. "Together 
we must win them back." 

"The Shawnee has promised the young men," 
said Pokagon, "that they shall come with him 
to this place to help him rouse the towns on our 

210 Tales of Kankakee Land 

river, after our people beyond the lake have 
received his words." 

"When he enters the Parkovash/' said Chan- 
donnai, " my shadow shall dog his steps until he 
has departed from the land. We must stand together 
firmly and have our answers ready for his artful 
speech. We may yet confuse him, so that the 
warriors will stand aloof from his lies and his wicked 

Tope-in-a-bee and Pokagon, comforted by the 
scout's firm words, each seized one of the French- 
man's hands and pressed it fervently, while tears 
of gratitude shone in their eyes. The scout then 
turned away, climbed up the outer wall of the 
sand-pocket, leaped over, and descended in safety 
to the beach. He passed up the shore, and re- 
turned as he had come, musing deeply and pausing 
now and then with a sigh that told of sad fears 
and forebodings from which the heart of Chan- 
donnai would not soon be free. 



Late in the afternoon of August i6, 1812, a 
woman lying in the bottom of a long Indian canoe 
raised herself on one elbow, and then turned her 
head from side to side searching for some glimpse 
of land. The frail vessel was riding on the waters 
of Lake Michigan and just out of sight of the 
southern shore. The woman was the wife of 
Captain Heald, the late commander of Fort Dear- 
born, whose garrison had this day suffered the 
extreme horrors of Indian warfare and had gone 
down under the terrible blow so long threatened 
and for which the red man had carefully prepared. 

Having finally caught sight of the low cloud of 

smoke in the West marking the location of the 

ruined fort, Mrs. Heald drew a deep sigh as the 

horrible reality of their cruel fate forced itself 

on her reviving consciousness. She dipped one 

hand in the water and bathed her forehead and 

eyes, sighing again as she did so; for she had been 


212 Tales of Kankakee Land 

in a heavy stupor for some hours, the result of 
nervous exhaustion and many severe flesh-wounds. 
She had been aroused by her companion, who 
needed a blanket from the pile on which she was 
lying. A light wind had sprung up, drifting out 
on to the lake from the Illinois prairies, a most 
welcome breeze, since it would help them across 
these dangerous waters. A sail could be im- 
provised out of the blanket. Two other canoes 
were drifting by the side of this one, and their 
occupants were also rigging up a few yards of 
canvas to catch the inviting airs which Heaven 
seemed to have sent this way. 

'Where is he?'' were the first words that broke 
from the lips over which reason had now regained 
its sway. 

''Your husband is safe," said her companion. 
"The Black Partridge and his band have taken 
him with others to their lodges on the Kankakee 
and will conduct him to your side in a few days." 

The speaker was Chandonnai, the American 
scout. As he talked he worked on at the task of 
putting up the rude sail. Those in the other 
canoes were listening attentively, for the scout 
proceeded to give the details of the woman's rescue 
from the hands of the savages who had been about 

The Rescue 213 

to take her life. An old horse, together with a jug 
of whiskey from the fort and a few beads and other 
trinkets — these things had been the price of the 
woman's ransom. Mrs. Heald was then informed 
that they were now endeavoring to cross Lake 
Michigan; that they had pushed far out into the 
open sea with all haste to avoid pursuit, and 
because such a route, though hazardous in rough 
weather, was safe enough in present conditions, 
and was a direct line to the harbor of the St. 
Joseph. A secure asylum in the lodges of the 
St. Joseph was offered by the chief Pokagon and 
his friend, the war-chief, Tope-in-a-bee. The 
former was now rigging a sail in the canoe on the 
left, and the industrious paddle of the latter had 
brought the remaining one thus far in their jour- 
ney. The passengers with the two Indians were 
the trader Kinzie and his family. 

The little vessels were soon on their way again. 
Broken food — which some of their number had 
snatched from the wreck of affairs at the fort — 
was passed from one to another. Then all, except 
those tending the sails, fell asleep, soothed by the 
breeze and the easy motion of the canoes, and by a 
sense of heavenly relief to escape, at last, from 
those awful scenes at the ruined fort. The day 

214 Tales of Kankakee Land 

wore along, evening came, and the sun spread 
a fiery floor over the cool blue waters of the sea, 
and then dropped from its place in the sky. 

Slowly the stars stole out one by one, and the 
gentle breeze blew on. The shifting constella- 
tions in the dark vault of the heavens alone marked 
the flight of the weary hours. The East had begun 
to purple in the presence of the new day, when the 
dim outline of the Michigan woods rose on the 
grateful vision of the waking refugees. Slowly, 
all too slowly, the canoes crept over the intervening 
distance, until the individual trees began to stand 
out and apart from their fellows and each bolder 
prominence to rise higher and higher. It was in 
the full light of day and with the wind dying out 
of their useless sails that they pushed cautiously 
over the bar, and then swept most eagerly within 
the protecting arms of the high bluffs and low sand- 
hills that encircle the harbor of the St. Joseph. 

They paused on the shore while the scout ran to 
the top of the bluff and paced up and down with 
his glass, searching the smooth floor of the sea 
and every point of the sky-line to know certainly 
that they were not pursued. But the evidence 
of their entire safety was not as conclusive as he 
might have wished, for in places heavy clouds of 

The Rescue 215 

mist were lifting slowly. Still, it was felt that 
they must risk the danger of a brief delay at the 
Burnett trading-post; wounds must be dressed 
and nourishing food must be had at almost any 

So the canoes passed on to the landing above 
the ford, while Chandonnai remained on the 
bluff to give timely warning of any approaching 
foe. To tarry at the post more than a few hours 
was not to be thought of, for this place had been 
referred to by the Indians at Fort Dearborn as the 
next point of attack. When the time for its de- 
struction would arrive, no man might declare; 
but should the attack be made, the place must 
surely fall. Therefore, the slanting rays of the 
afternoon sun saw the travellers once more on the 
river, and still another afternoon had wellnigh 
slipped away before they passed the homes of 
Tope-in-a-bee's band. But not even in this place 
could they remain and hope for peace and security. 
The town was too much exposed, and among its 
inhabitants were many sorely disaffected warriors. 
But when they reached the landing at the ford 
of the Sauk trail, they gladly left behind the 
watery highway of their wearisome and perilous 
journey. Thoughts of the awful tragedy from 

216 Tales of Kankakee Land 

whose scenes they had fled must have weighed 
heavily on the spirits of these rescued ones, as they 
filed up the trail from the ford and then wound 
through the hills toward the lodges of Pokagon's 
town. And then, after all, might it not prove 
untrue that this Pokagon's heart knew no guile? 

All such doubts were dispelled, however, when 
the village had found an opportunity of adding 
to its generous hospitality many of the truly tender 
ministrations that spring so freely for those who 
have won the sympathy of the red man. They 
had found faithful friends and a place of safety. 
Here Captain Heald joined them in a few days. 

Fields of grain now cover the spot where this 
village of the Pottowattomies once stood. When 
heavy rains have washed the freshly ploughed 
ground, the antiquarian will show you where a 
few blue glass beads may be found, or an arrow- 
point, or perhaps a fish-spear. On a neighboring 
rise of ground he will brush aside the fallen beech- 
leaves to point out a slab of limestone, like those 
in the river at Fort St. Joseph. The stone was once 
the threshold of a church — a Christian church, 
albeit one made of logs — which Pokagon and his 
friends built in this place with much care and 
great labor. One may trace the building's ample 

The Rescue 217 

dimensions from the depressions in the soil where 
the wooden foundations, as well as all other parts 
of the structure, have succumbed to complete 
decay. This church edifice was the work of fond 
hearts — Indian hearts. Pokagon himself had 
kept up at least the outward form of Christian 
worship during a period of many years after the 
missionaries had left the country. And, finally, 
because of his earnest entreaty, a priest was sent 
to them. Their sires had taught them much 
about the Great Spirit, but the Christian had 
taught them much more, and the new faith must 
not perish from among the people. Americans 
may not forget this spot, since it is one where the 
love of Christ found permanent lodgment in an 
Indian's bosom ; and for that reason the red man's 
home became an asylum for our unfortunate 
countrymen in the season of their dire distress. 
One may walk down to the springs again and 
refresh himself from their cold floods, which now, 
as in the past, have never been known to fail. But 
he will find little else to suggest the old life, unless 
it be the shocks of Indian corn that stand where 
the lodges once tapered up at this old town of the 
good and wise Pokagon. 

The Kinzies were conducted by Chandonnai 

218 Tales of Kankakee Land 

far to the north and east, and finally brought by 
secret and roundabout paths to friends in Detroit. 
But Captain Heald and his wife lingered until 
they might recover from their wounds. Neither 
they nor their host, however, felt that perfect 
security would long be possible in this place. The 
great Sauk trail was near the village, and strange 
red men were coming and going. The story of 
the rescue of this white man and his wife could 
not fail to reach the distant camp-fires of their 

Nor did such forebodings prove groundless ; for 
one day the rumor came that the young men in one 
of the Wisconsin villages were about to strike the 
trail, and that it was their hope to seize again these 
trembling refugees and lay fagots at their feet in 
the far-away towns of their conquerors. Not a 
moment must be lost. Pokagon hurried his 
proteges down the trail to the landing, where the 
canoes, quickly launched and manned, shot down 
the current and sped away and away to the harbor 
at the river's mouth, and out into the waves of 
the great sea. When they were quite across the 
heavy swell from the lake, the prows turned north. 
The line of the canoes held to an even unvarying 
speed until they had rounded the first bold promon- 

The Rescue 219 

tory a few miles from the harbor, and then all 
stood still while the last of the line swept past. 
^^Bon voyage!^'' cried out some of the boatmen in 
soft, low tones, while others called on a Christian 
saint. Not a few, however, mentioned the names 
of heathen divinities, some of the tutelary gods — 
such as the Spirit of the Great Fish, the Great 
Turtle, the Great Swan — into whose care and 
keeping they desired to consign their friends now 
speeding on their perilous journey. 

The three occupants of this last canoe were 
the Captain and his wife and Chandonnai. The 
scout had insisted that all others should yield to 
him the difficult task of conducting the refugees 
to Mackinac Island, the sacred spot where no 
Indian might take the life of any human being. 
By dint of tireless energy at the paddle and the 
blessed fortune of light winds favoring their course, 
they worked their way down the whole length 
of Lake Michigan. In the forest- wall bordering 
the lake were certain clefts where one might 
find the mouth of a river, the Kalamazoo, the 
Grand, the Muskegon. They would not venture 
past these places except under cover of darkness. 
If no open enemy should be lurking in the neigh- 
borhood, they were still the places where the flight 

220 Tales of Kankakee Land 

of the fugitives would certainly be observed, and 
no one could foretell the effect of the rumors thus 
set in motion. This dangerous headland, whose 
angry waters they avoid, is Point Au Sable, and 
that one is The Sleeping Bear, with the mysterious 
islands of the Manitou on the faint, far-off sky-line 
of the West. Here are the twin bays, and just be- 
yond are the villages of the Ottawas. At length they 
turn into the straits and come all in safety to the 
beach of Mackinac Island, where they find Cap- 
tain Roberts of the English army. Delivered 
into his care, these grateful survivors of the Fort 
Dearborn massacre were promptly sent forward 
to their friends in the East. 

Chief Pokagon having parted with his white 
friends on the lake, held his way back to the harbor, 
returning to his forest-home. Let us follow him. 
He is in a meditative mood, as the canoes standing 
in near to the bank work their tedious way up the 
St. Joseph. He cannot shut out some thoughts 
of the wrongs his race has suffered at the hands 
of the oppressor; he thinks of the unequal contest, 
whose issue is now each day more plain ; he thinks 
of his part in shielding these victims whom an 
avenging fate seemed to have dedicated to the 
fury of the red man. But something tells him 

The Rescue 221 

that his deed of mercy has been a worthy one. 
Is it the voice of the Great Spirit that he hears? 
or is it only the breeze rattHng the stems of the 
wild rice that everywhere fringe the banks and 
swing their tasselled tops high in air ? Yet, when 
his feet stand once more on the venerable Sauk 
trail, the ancient path of his fathers, there comes 
o'er his soul the old longing that wakes in every 
Indian breast — not a hope but only a deep desire — 
that the Great Spirit would cause the white man 
to fade away, and that none but moccasoned feet 
should approach the river's brink or stand in the 
cool aisles of the forest. He wishes that the 
cattle, the sheep, and the swine might go to their 
heaven, and that the buffalo cows might come 
again to the Parkovash. But at this moment his 
eyes fall on the high cedar cross that rises from 
the hill-top where the dead are sleeping, and he 
thinks of the good priest who first taught him a 
Christian prayer. Then he knows that these 
things cannot and must not be. He pauses in the 
path until the others have passed on. They think 
that he waits to offer a pious salutation to the 
spirits of the dead, as red men are wont to do. 
But when he is alone, this Pokagon, chief of the 
Pottowattomies, facing the symbol of the new 

222 Tales of Kankakee Land 

faith, crosses himself and, turning his eyes to the 
sky, begs the Blessed Virgin to touch the hearts 
of his people and warm their bosoms with enduring 
love for the white brother. 



To-day, as for fifty years past, the Sauk trail 
bears the name of the Chicago Road, having re- 
ceived such a name when the Government had 
smoothed and straightened its course from Detroit 
to Chicago. By such means it became one of the 
mightiest of those great arteries through which 
in the early days the vigorous currents of Anglo- 
Saxon life began to run toward the remote parts 
of the far West. But the first wheels to sink a 
furrow on either side of the old path were not 
those of the white man's wagon. Priority in this 
matter must be conceded to Pokagon's wagon that 
first rumbled out of old Pokagon Town and along 
the sinuous course of his people's ancient highway. 
As proud as any conquering monarch in his 
golden chariot was this red chieftain trundling 
through the forest and across the prairie in his 
brave contrivance which, he trusted, should con- 
vince the world that the Indian might master the 
arts of the pale face. 


224 Tales of Kankakee Land 

Just when this wagon was built we do not know, 
except that it was in the first years of the nine- 
teenth century and probably before the Fort 
Dearborn massacre. The vehicle continued to 
do service for many years, and was at the time a 
matter of no little astonishment to the early inhab- 
itants of the region. One of the latter was accus- 
tomed to recall "a day back in the twenties" 
when he had beheld a strange apparition moving 
across the prairie at a good, vigorous gait. As 
the equipage drew nearer, it proved to be Pokagon's 
famous wagon, and the chief himself was holding 
the reins over a horse and a steer that had been 
harnessed together and were working as sub- 
missively as one could desire. The royal car 
rolled away to the south; for in that direction and 
near at hand lay the Dragoon Trace, a kind of 
rude military road, or path, that led from Fort 
Wayne to Fort Dearborn. A troop of United 
States cavalry, or dragoons, as they were then 
called, was coming up the path, and the chief 
doubtless desired the soldiers to know that there 
was one red man who had learned how to make 
a wagon and how to use it. 

On this occasion there happened to be with 
the troops a clergyman going through to Fort 




i'ukaguu's famous wagon 

The Story of the First Wagon 225 

Dearborn, and on his account they halted for 
a close inspection of Pottowattomie workmanship. 
The surprise of these and all beholders was not 
alone because an Indian had worked out the 
device, but because the design of the wagon was 
totally different from every other manner of 
vehicle to be seen in the country. It was not one 
of those huge "arks" such as rolled out of Penn- 
sylvania and Virginia in the early days; nor was 
it the lighter conveyance of a "York State" gar- 
dener; nor yet was it a chaise, or gig, such as an of- 
ficial dignitary might sometimes have used even in 
the wilderness. The clergyman declared that the 
curious construction was in many ways the coun- 
terpart of the ancient carts depicted on the old 
Egyptian tombs and still used in Oriental coun- 

And such, indeed, was Pokagon's wagon ; for it 
consisted of a stout frame, not unlike a low wood- 
rack, surmounted by a comfortable seat and sup- 
ported on a strong, heavy axle. Nicely fitted to 
this axle were the two massive wheels, each from 
six to seven inches in thickness and not less than 
two and a half feet in diameter. They were cross- 
sections of the trunk of a great white oak. A 
close examination of the wheels showed that they 

226 Tales of Kankakee Land 

had not been worked out with a saw, but had been 
dressed to shape by alternate burning and scrap- 
ing, just as the aborigines have for ages shaped 
and hollowed out logs to make their light shell- 
canoes. And this Indian's wagon was painted 
red, as any Indian's should be. 

The soldiers riding away speculated long on 
the origin of the strange device. What had sug- 
gested the Oriental pattern to this Indian far off 
in the forests of the Northwest country? On this 
point, unfortunately, the chief had always main- 
tained a dogged silence. He would tell no man 
why he had made his wagon thus. Nor was his 
conduct without sufficient reason, if we may trust 
what tradition says of him. For, when he was a 
youth — so it is said — he cared little for the arts 
of the pale face. It was as a warrior that he 
would win renown. Thus had his fathers done. 
Yet in this stormy period of his young manhood 
it was that his mind had seized upon this pattern 
for a wagon. But when or where he had found 
his model no man could learn from him, since any 
discussion of the matter must call up the days and 
the scenes which now he would have all men 

It cannot be denied that this same wise Pokagon 

The Story of the First Wagon 227 

when a young man led his braves on the war-path. 
And what pains they were at to find the enemy! 
The length of the red man's war-path seems almost 
incredible. The Iroquois of Central New York 
often found their foes beyond the mountains of 
Georgia. The Comanches of Northern Texas 
rode over a trail whose length was more than 
twice the distance from Chicago to the mouth of 
the Hudson River, while our Potto wattomies often 
sought a field for their warlike manoeuvres along 
the banks of those rivers that are tributary to the 
Arkansas and the Missouri. When Lieutenant 
Pike was sent out by our Government, in 1806, 
to explore the Arkansas River, he took with him 
as guides a band of captives, fifty-two Osage Ind- 
ians. He had found these unfortunates languish- 
ing in the camps of the Pottowattomies, many 
hundreds of miles from their native plains. Tra- 
dition has not disclosed what part our Pokagon 
played in bringing these poor creatures to his 
northern home. But we do not doubt that his 
enemies had full cause to think him brave. 

The encampments of the Osage tribe were at 
that time near the head-waters of the Neosho, a 
country now included in the State of Kansas. 
Through the confines of their territory meandered 

228 ' Tales of Kankakee Land 

a well-known path which was the forerunner of the 
great Santa Fe trail, the famous highway connect- 
ing Santa Fe with the old French and Spanish city 
of St. Louis. An occasional troop of soldiers rode 
over this trail, and often one might see the caravans 
of Spanish merchants and petty traders coming 
and going. Sometimes a band of Comanche horse- 
men turned into this well-beaten roadway and fol- 
lowed its course for a time, or a group of Pawnees 
concealed themselves behind the low hills that in 
some places skirt the path. And here, too, we may 
not doubt that our Pottowattomies were sometimes 
in hiding, when the O sages came down the path to 
traffic with any passing caravan of traders. In 
such a place Pokagon and his warriors could lie 
in wait until they should find and overcome the 
foe. A remarkable panorama was that which 
the life of the trail supplied for these red men 
from the far East. But of all the sights he saw, 
the one which most profoundly moved the chief 
Pokagon was the old Mexican wagon with its 
limitless capacity for goods and chattels, its pon- 
derous wheels, each wrought from a solid piece 
of timber, and its draught-animals, which were 
sometimes half-wild oxen and sometimes a yoke 
of steers with horses and mules as co-laborers. 

The Story of the First Wagon 229 

And, indeed, that venerable type of a wagon 
might well excite the attention of the red man. 
The Spaniards brought the device into Mexico 
from Spain. They themselves had received it 
from the Moors. It had come down to the latter 
by natural inheritance from the tribes of north 
Africa which from the earliest times have hung 
on the borders of the civilization of the Nile. In 
such a wagon as this Joseph brought his father up 
out of the land of Egypt. Such a wagon as this 
bore all the burdens of the Oriental world in all the 
ages of the past. Even the Greeks and the Romans 
had not sufficient inventive skill to escape from 
this device, for even their war-chariots were scarcely 
a departure from these lines. And so, at length, 
this old pattern of the wagon of ancient Egypt 
had come round to the other side of the world 
and now had fixed the wondering attention of an 
American Indian. As the chief Pokagon fled 
homeward along the old war-path, many thoughts 
filled his fancy, thoughts that in no way pertained 
to the victory won or the Osage captives that 
followed in his train. He would emulate the 
white man. He would know the white man's 
art. He would build a wagon! 

Well remembered is the day when the farmer- 

230 Tales of Kankakee Land 

boys drew out of the spongy earth around one of 
the springs at Pokagon Town the last surviving 
remnants of the chief's famous wagon, the broken 
parts of the huge wheels. It was a most fortunate 
recovery of a glorious relic of the past. When the 
mud and grime of three-quarters of a century had 
been washed away, here and there a spot of red 
paint showed itself to tell of the glory in which 
this wilderness chariot once flamed forth on the 
old Sauk trail, announcing to the solemn forest 
and the sunny prairie that the influence of the 
Pharaohs had come at last even to the far-away 
region of the Great Lakes. These fragments of 
the broken wheels seemed to teach their lesson 
plainly; for were they not the visible testimony 
of the Indian's struggle with the white man's art? 
Though the day was far spent, we still lingered 
in the precincts of this deserted village, unwilling 
to quit the scenes that could so forcibly testify 
to the character of the red man, could testify how 
he sometimes comprehended the plain, though 
doubtless unwelcome, fact that " his feet must tread 
the white man's path," if he would prevail in the 
modern world. We were turning over these 
thoughts, while gazing into the bowl of one of the 
springs that bubble now for us, as they have done 

llie Story of the First Wagon 231 

for them of yore through ages past, when a soft 
booming sound arrested our attention and called 
us back to the affairs of the living moment. It 
was the far-off blast of the steam-whistle at one 
of the great wagon factories whose product has 
made the valley of the St. Joseph famous in many 
lands. The breath of steam on the whistle's lip 
of bronze proclaimed that labor's day was done. 
The miles of atmosphere that lay between this 
quiet vale and that world of the forge and the 
hammer had softened the tones of the powerful 
voice, until one might have mistaken it for the 
moan of an Osage captive or the ghost of the old 
warcry, as some spirit-band once more hurried 
down the ancient trail. 

But no, the voice came not from the dead past ; 
it swelled from the bosom of the living, triumphant, 
exulting present. And it, too, told the story of 
the wagon — that burden-bearer for all the world, 
the American wagon — clothed in all that perfection 
by which American industry and American genius 
are now prevailing so mightily in the markets of 
civilized lands. It would seem that no one could 
listen to this voice and then turn his eyes upon 
these relics of the ancient wheelwright's labor 
without finding a peculiar fitness in the choice 

232 Tales of Kankakee Land 

of this locality for the scene of the primitive wagon 
maker's triumph. Nature had marked the spot. 
At the beginning the wagon-maker's spirit was in 
the air, so that even the Indian felt its influence 
and deserted the war-path for the nobler fame 
of building the first wagon.